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KABUKI ABC (77) / Actors show their personal sides in Kabuki-yawa talk events

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Nakamura Mantaro, right, speaks at the Kabukiza Gallery in Tokyo’s Higashiginza district on April 5.

By Tatsuhiro Morishige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThe Kabukiza Gallery, located on the fifth floor of the building that houses the Kabukiza theater in the Higashiginza district of Tokyo, regularly holds a series of evening talk events called “Kabuki-yawa.”

Kabuki actors are featured as guest speakers. They discuss not only acting, but also behind-the-scenes stories and mistakes they’ve made on stage, while also talking about their families and fellow actors. This is a fascinating opportunity for fans as they can get a glimpse of the private parts of their lives, something not normally seen.

The guest speaker for April 5 was Nakamura Mantaro, who is turning 29 as he was born in May 1989. He is the second son of Nakamura Tokizo, a veteran onnagata, a male actor who plays mainly female roles. While his brother Nakamura Baishi, two years his senior, is an up-and-coming onnagata, Mantaro mainly plays tachiyaku male characters. Having enormous skill in delivering lines and making nimble movements, in addition to his friendly and winsome facial expressions, Mantaro is one of the most promising actors of his generation.

With Kazuhisa Tobe of Shochiku Co.’s drama production department as an interviewer, Mantaro started talking about the play “Kamiyui Shinza” (Shinza, the Barber), which was performed at the National Theatre in March. He played the role of Katsuyakko, a henchman of the title character, for the first time.

“As the role is what I have always wanted to play, I was very happy when I got the part,” he said. “But I found that playing the role was very different from just seeing it. It has many things to do, and it was difficult to act as if I were actually living every day in the house in the play.”

Mantaro then talked about the play “Cocoon Kabuki: Kirare no Yosa” (Yosa with a scar face), which will kick off on May 9 at Theatre Cocoon in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

“Though it had not been decided which role I would play, my name was printed on a flyer,” the actor said, sharing some behind-the-scenes stories with the audience. “When we had a meeting about the play, the script was not ready.”

“So far, I have only one line for my part.”

Tobe offered his congratulations for Mantaro’s marriage in October, supported by strong applause from the audience.

“Kabuki actors’ weddings are usually held at the end of a month [when there are no plays],” he said. “I held a big ceremony, and many senior actors congratulated us. This makes me think that we cannot break up unless we have an extremely serious problem” — a candid remark that wowed the crowd.

A question-and-answer session is a special feature of the event series. On that day, Mantaro received such questions as: “Who do you wish to perform with?” “Where do you want to go on a [kabuki] tour?” “How do you spend your days off?”

The actor answered all the questions politely. When he said, “I made beef stew [on my recent day off],” it drew the biggest response of the day in the hall.

The next session of the Kabuki-yawa series will be held on May 19, featuring Nakamura Kinnosuke, an actor popular for his handsome face who is also Mantaro’s uncle and Tokizo’s younger brother.

— Morishige covers traditional performing arts.

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