How the Danjuros Created Kabuki Super-Heroes

by Lynn Moyers on October 17, 2016

PSU’s Professor Laurence Komniz will illustrate how the striped-face makeup, outlandish costumes, and dynamic poses of aragoto (bravura) kabuki acting are iconic images of the art, recognized by every Japanese as KABUKI. In fact there are many different visual styles and acting conventions within the sub-genre of aragoto, super-hero kabuki, a subgenre best represented by the “Eighteen Great Plays of Kabuki.

When we examine closely, we find most important innovations were stimulated by actors failing to impress audiences after assuming the vaunted and coveted name of Ichikawa Danjûrô. In a highly competitive commercial environment, in which repeated failure meant unemployment, aragoto actors were forced to “innovate or die.” Kominz explores the artistic creativity that this cutthroat world engendered in a presentation full of images from ukiyo-e prints and video clips of kabuki’s finest actors on-stage – and a few of our own, fine student actors as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU), room 296/7/8, 1825 SW Broadway Ave.
Free and open to the public

Dr. Laurence Kominz is a Professor of Japanese Literature and Drama at Portland State University.

His books  include The Stars who Created Kabuki: Their Lives, Loves, and Legacy, Avatars of Vengeance: Japanese Drama and the Soga Literary Tradition.  He serves as Japan editor for Asian Theatre Journal and referees book manuscripts on Japanese drama for several publishers.

A student and performer of nihon buyô and kyôgen, he directs student productions of kyôgen and kabuki at PSU and as a guest director at other colleges.  In 2016 Dr. Kominz directed the epic kabuki play, The Revenge of the 47 Loyal Samurai at PSU.

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This event is hosted by PSU’s Center for Japanese Studies (CJS).  The CJS: Celebrating 15 years of excellence, 2001-2016.

Contact: Center for Japanese Studies,, 503-725-8577

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