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Liberated Women or Keepers of “Japanese Tradition”? Actresses of Kyōgen and their Strategies of Public Profiling

22.10.2008 | 18:30

Barbara Geilhorn, Trier University

Abriss

The Japanese Kyōgen Theatre is often perceived as a kind of museum piece, which merely preserves old patterns handed down from father to son over generations. However, Kyōgen still is a living genre of performing arts. Yet while the experiments of stars like Nomura Mansai (*1966) meet with high approval, the existence of professional female performers is widely unknown.

This paper will focus on Izumi Junko (*1969) and Miyake Tōkurō X (*1972), daughters of the 19th head of the Izumi school of Kyōgen and the only two women in this male-dominated genre. I will explore their family’s ambiguous position in Kyōgen circles as an important factor in opening the path for their careers, which, at the same time, is also an obstacle: The first female performers lack acceptance not only because they are women, but also because they are members of a family notorious for its scandals.

In an attempt to compensate for these problems, Izumi Junko and Miyake Tōkurō X make frequent use of the media as a platform to promote an image of themselves as two young women, liberated but strictly following the rules of their art. Besides illuminating the sisters’ strategies of public profiling, the presentation will illustrate their role as ‘catalysers’ in the process of opening the Kyōgen stage for women. Based on this special case, I will explore the possibilities of actresses as a means to broaden the modes of expression of an old, yet modern genre of performing arts.


Barbara GEILHORN teaches at the Department of Japanese Studies, University of Trier (Germany), where she finished a Ph.D. thesis on female performers of Nō and Kyōgen. Recent publications include: Between Self-Empowerment and Discrimination – Women in Nō Today, Nō Theatre Transversal. Ed. Stanca Scholz-Cionca and Christopher Balme. Munich: Iudicium (forthcoming in 2008).

Koordination: Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt; Peter Backhaus

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