Women of Japanese Theater Essay

2381 Words Dec 24th, 2012 10 Pages
Women in Japanese Theater



The history of women in Japanese theater is the history of the social changes that swept the country in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Actresses at this time progressed from a point where they were not allowed to perform at all to the point where they were celebrated artists.
Although it would be intriguing to tackle womens history in the theater across the entire period, the source book, Acting Like a Woman in Modern Japan, is so packed with information on so many aspects of women in the theater that the topic is overbroad. This paper therefore will discuss only selected topics: the role of men in the theater in the absence of women; the advent of actresses into the profession, and what it
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Thus a geisha needs to constantly distinguish herself from a prostitute while at the same time maintaining a pose of sexual availability not ostensibly required of an artist. An actress (joyū) is often seen as not much different from a geisha and is in direct competition with actors who impersonate female roles (onnagata). Thus an actress needs to distinguish herself from a geisha by emphasizing her art over their sexual appeal while at the same time proving herself superior to the onnagata by emphasizing her natural sex over his artifice. (Kano, pp. 42-43).

In other words, the actress must be sexual and asexual at the same time. That is, she must distinguish herself from geisha and prostitutes by exhibiting her skill at acting; and yet while she acts, she must also be seen to be more feminine than the onnagata. The rise of the female actress in Japan resulted in the marginalization of the onnagata, and it was both a liberating and repressive phenomenon. (Kano, p. 8). Well explore what this means in the final section, but now Id like to turn to further definitions and how they tend to define the actress in the…