Samuel L. Leiter - Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, CUNY
The years 1952-1965 were fraught with problems for Japan’s kabuki theatre, whose very existence was at stake. As Japan struggled with post-Occupation social, political, and economic difficulties, kabuki found itself in danger of being bypassed by multiple other forms of entertainment. Its senior actors were passing away, its company system was crumbling, its young stars were leaving to act in movies, the Tōhō conglomerate was raiding Shōchiku, new playwrights were becoming rare, the fate of the onnagata was being debated, and so on. There were positive developments as well, of course, including the sudden burst of international touring and the accession of a popular actor to kabuki’s greatest stage name, but pitfalls lurked at every step. These issues, detailed in Leiter’s new book, Kabuki at the Crossroads: Years of Crisis, 1952-1965, are surveyed in this lecture by way of introduction to the period.