Nothing reflects the beauty of life as much as Japanese theater. It is here that reality is held suspended and emptiness can fill the mind with words, music, dance, and mysticism. A.L. Sadler translates the mysteries of Noh, Kyogen, and Kabuki in his groundbreaking book, Japanese Plays. A seminal classic in its time, it provides a cross-section of Japanese theater that gives the reader a sampler of its beauty and power.
The power of Noh is in its ability to create an iconic world that represents the attributes that the Japanese hold in highest esteem: family, patriotism, and honor.
Kyogen plays provide comic relief often times performed between the serious and stoic Noh plays. Similarly, Sadler's translated Kyogen pieces are layered between the Noh and the Kabuki plays.
The Kabuki plays were the theater of the common people of Japan. The course of time has given them the patina of folk art making them precious cultural relics of Japan. Sadler selected these pieces for translation because of their lighter subject matter and relatively upbeat endings—ideal for a western readership. More linear in their telling and pedestrian in the lessons learned these plays show the difficulties of being in love when a society is bent on conformity and paternal rule.
The end result found in Japanese Plays is a wonderful selection of classic Japanese dramatic literature sure to enlighten and delight.
About the Author: A.L. Sadler (1882-1970) was Professor of Oriental Studies at the University of Sydney for 26 years, as well as Professor of Japanese at the Royal Military College of Australia. Among his other works are Shogun: The life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japanese Tea Ceremony: Cha-no-ya, and Japanese Architecture: A Short History.
Paul S. Atkins is Associate Professor of Japanese at the University of Washington, Seattle. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he was educated at Stanford University, where he completed a Ph.D. in Japanese. His field of expertise is premodern Japanese literature, drama, and culture. Professor Atkins is the author of Revealed Identity: The Noh Plays of Komparu Zenchiku and numerous articles on medieval Japanese theatre, fiction, poetry, poetics, and literary history.