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Kabuki Summer

You should not just go on vacation and take it easy in the summertime. You should go out and immerse yourself in new experiences. Kabuki theater should be on your list.

Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree) at Lincoln Center Festival 2014-slide0
© Shochiku

For starters, The Nippon Club in New York City will be hosting a lecture called "KABUKI: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?" on Wednesday, July 2, at 6:00 p.m. Professor, Samuel L. Leiter, will give you a primer on Kabuki theater with its history, construct, themes and cultural impact. If you are overwhelmed or bewildered about this theater genre, rest assured you will gain new appreciation and interest in Kabuki.

DATE & TIME: Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
LOCATION: The Nippon Club (145 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, between 6th and 7th Aves.)
ADMISSION: $5/person at the door (cash or check only).
*Space is limited and RSVP is required. To RSVP, email name, email address and phone number to
Registration will close once all seats are filled.
Please visit for more details.

The best way to top off a lecture on Kabuki is to see an actual Kabuki play itself. Lincoln Center Festival 2014 is proud to welcome the return of renowned Kabuki theater troupe, Heisei Nakamura-za. This will be the troupe's third appearance at Lincoln Center. The play, Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree), is a classic revenge tale.

Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki is a rarely performed nineteenth-century ghost story about the murder of an artist by a handsome samurai who desires the artist’s wife. Nakamura Kankuro VI will play three different roles, including the artist, with lightening-speed transformations—sometimes within the same scene. Running the emotional gamut from drama to slapstick comedy and culminating in a fight-to-the-death under a waterfall, it is Kabuki theater at its most dramatic.

Heisei Nakamura-za
Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree)
Adapted from a rakugo narrative by San'yūtei Enchō (1839-1900)
July 7―12, 2014
8 performances, Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall (Time Warner Center, Broadway at 60th Street)
With: Nakamura Kankuro VI, Nakamura Shichinosuke II, Kataoka Kamezo IV, and Nakamura Shido II
Running time: approximately two hours 30 minutes
Performed in Japanese with English synopsis via a headset.

Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki performance schedule: Monday, July 7 at 7:30 pm; Tuesday, July 8 at 7:00 pm; Wednesday, July 9 at 1:30 and 7:00 pm; Thursday, July 10 at 7:00 pm; Friday, July 11 at 7:00 pm; Saturday, July 12 at 1:30 and 7:00 pm.

Tickets: Single tickets for Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki at the Rose Theater, Broadway and 60th Street, beginning at $45, are available now. For more information and to buy tickets, visit or go to the Avery Fisher or Alice Tully Hall box offices, or call CenterCharge, 212-721-6500.

But wait, there's more!

  • July 1-13, Japanese Artisan Village to offer traditional handicrafts for sale on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza
  • July 1, FREE screening of Kanzaburo, a documentary film about the founder of Heisei Nakamura-za Kabuki troupe
  • July 5, FREE Saturday family program by Sachiyo Ito & Company to introduce the art of Kabuki and traditional Japanese dance in the David Rubenstein Atrium
  • July 9, Lincoln Center Education to hold day-long Kabuki workshop for teachers

To celebrate the appearance of the legendary Heisei Nakamura-za company, a Japanese Artisan Village reminiscent of Edo-period Japan will be constructed on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza, just outside the David H. Koch Theater. Visitors will find booths specializing in traditional handicrafts for purchase—from wood-fired pottery and textiles to delicately fashioned dolls in kimonos cut from antique fabrics, along with fine cotton towels (tenugui), intricately painted hand fans (sensu), calligraphy, and hair ornaments (kanzashi).

Each of these objects holds a special place in Japanese cultural history. Dolls have a long tradition dating back more than 1,000 years of serving as a symbol for a newborn child, protecting it from illness. Even today they are conspicuously displayed twice a year, on March 3 (for girls) and on May 5 (for boys). When old dolls are discarded, memorial services for them are held at temples and shrines. The Japanese Artisan Village dolls are intricately constructed, using 74 separate steps, involving a body made of wood sawdust strengthened by rice glue, a head shaped by chisels, eyes made of glass, and many coatings to produce just the right sheen. Each doll is dressed in a tiny kimono made from antique kimono fabric.

Tenugui, or thin hand towels made of cotton, are especially relevant in conjunction with the Kabuki performances. In the past, Kabuki actors wore them as head coverings before wigs became popular and they are still employed as a prop to express sadness. Producing these towels involves three steps: a design is brought to a paper pattern artisan who transfers it onto special handmade carved paper; dyeing artisans then print the pattern onto rolls of bleached cotton cloth folded like an accordion, using a technique called “Oritsuke Chusen,” finally, the printed cotton is cut to become the length of the finished towel. Today, Tenugui are popular gifts in Japan, displayed decoratively in picture frames, and used as napkins, placemats and scarves.

Japanese hair ornaments, or Kanzashi, are another powerful symbol of Japanese culture. Finely crafted, sanded, engraved, embossed and brazed, some are sophisticated, some are simple, but every ornament tells a story. In addition to serving as fashion statements, they were also used as a defensive weapon by women, and therefore made ideal gifts from men. Popular wisdom says that the more a Kanzashi is worn, the more its patina is improved. Kanzashi are handed down in families as treasured heirlooms.

The Japanese Artisan Village will be open daily from July 1 to 13, from 12 noon until 8 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until 9 pm Friday and Saturday. Sales will be by credit card only.

Lincoln Center Festival director Nigel Redden will introduce this documentary about the founder of today’s Heisei Nakamura-za troupe at the screening on July 1 at 6:30 pm in the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse. Directed by Matsuki Tsukura, the film shows how passionately Eiga Nakamura Kanzaburo spread the art of Kabuki to an international audience as well as to a younger generation. The documentary used more than 7,000 hours of recorded video in its production. The film is in Japanese, with English subtitles. Running time: 95 minutes.

As one of its monthly FREE Meet the Artists Saturday events, on July 5 at 11 am, Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium will present Sachiyo Ito and Company performing elegant Japanese classical dances in a program suitable for families. The program will includes Kabuki dances from the 19th century, such as Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden), and Mitsumen Komori (Three Mask Lullaby) originally staged in 1826 and 1829, various styles of walking by characters in Kabuki plays, as well as use of stage props such as a dance fan. Also a contemporary work choreographed by Sachiyo Ito in Kabuki dance style will be presented.

As part of its Summer Forum for educators, Lincoln Center Education (LCE) will offer a one-day experiential lab on Kabuki on Wednesday, July 9 that includes the matinee performance of Lincoln Center Festival’s Kaiden Chibusa no Enoki. This lab will use LCE’s approach to aesthetic education, a powerful tool that enhances a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of even the most difficult work of art. With pre- and post-performance activities carefully designed to enhance one’s enjoyment of this world-class performance, one’s role as an audience member will lead to a new ability to appreciate and understand the arts. Before the show, professional teaching artist, Claudia Acosta, will guide the group through an exploration of the artistic process that will open eyes to the choices artists are faced with on a regular basis. After the performance, a collaborative reflection and discussion will conclude the one-day experiential lab. The session is open to artists, educators, and administrators at the tuition rate of $200. To register or to obtain more information, visit

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