KABUKI ABC (57) / Aspiring actors: Young men hope for success with independent performances in summer

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Onoe Matsuya

By Tatsuhiro Morishige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterDuring August, aspiring young kabuki actors put on independent performances and presentations in hopes of making it big. As one watches these youths broaden their skills or compete for a starring role rarely given to young actors, it is easy to escape from summer fatigue.

Nakamura Kasho, 28, and Nakamura Tanenosuke, 24, sons of veteran actor Nakamura Matagoro who is a member of the family led by kabuki star Nakamura Kichiemon, will hold study performances titled Sochokai on Aug. 5 and 6. The show, the brothers’ third staging of Sochokai, will be held at the National Theatre’s Small Theatre.

Kasho will play the role of Matahei in “Keisei Hangonko” (also known as “Domomata”), while Tanenosuke will perform the role of Okurakyo in “Ichijo Okura Monogatari.” Kichiemon has won acclaim for his performance of both roles and will reportedly train the brothers.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Onoe Ukon

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Nakamura Kasho, left, and Nakamura Tanenosuke

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

The pair are passionate in taking on the challenge. “By learning [from Kichiemon], I want to express Matahei’s suffering and struggles with his stammer,” Kasho said.

His younger brother notes, “[The role of] Okurakyo requires expression of his dignity, feelings, inner self and other sensations mainly through dialogue.”

Onoe Ukon, the 25-year-old great-grandson of Onoe Kikugoro VI, a distinguished actor during the Taisho and Showa eras, will hold a self-promotional performance called Ken-no-kai at the same theater on Aug. 27 and 28. This will also be his third time.

Though Ukon has recently appeared as the musumeyaku (sweet daughter) character in many of his performances, he will also perform the tachiyaku (leading male) role in the event.

“I want to show my willingness to learn both the onnagata female and tachiyaku roles. I’ll put all of my heart and strength into doing what I need to do,” Ukon said.

Onoe Matsuya, 32, who will play a supporting role in Ukon’s Ken-no-kai performance, annually organizes an independent performance event called Idomu, or challenge. The event will take place for the ninth time this year in Tokyo and Osaka.

Many other events featuring young actors will also be held, including a Chigyonokai and Kabukikai joint performance at the National Theatre, a Kamigata kabukikai performance at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka and a showing by Sora-no-kai, a group of young actors based in the Kamigata region (generally defined as Osaka and Kyoto).

While working in Osaka in 2015, I watched Sora-no-kai’s first ever performance and was taken aback by Kataoka Senju, a lovely young onnagata actor with a round face.

Though he is from a regular family, Senju works hard and has been promoted to nadai, a qualification permitting kabuki actors to play major roles.

He recently appeared in a performance of “Ippon Gatana Dohyo Iri” starring Matsumoto Koshiro in June at the Kabukiza theater.

On stage, Senju capably performed the role of a young woman who sings pleasing lullabies. His amazing growth, which brought him the opportunity to show his skills on the big stage, fills me with great emotion.

I hope this August’s performances will reveal new talents who will help forge the future of kabuki.

— Morishige covers traditional Japanese performing arts.

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