Carolina Kabuki Blue Halloween

Kuge-Bōrei, The Ghost of Abe-no-Nakamaro (a court noble) devised by Sawamura Sōjūrō, the Fourth (1784-1812) , plat no. 34 in Masaru Kobayashi, Kabuki kumadori gaikan (Kyoto: Guroriya Sosaete, 1931).
Kuge-Bōrei, The Ghost of Abe-no-Nakamaro (a court noble) devised by Sawamura Sōjūrō, the Fourth (1784-1812) , plate no. 34 in Masaru Kobayashi, Kabuki kumadori gaikan 歌舞伎隈取概觀 (Kyoto: Guroria Sosaete, 1931)| PN2068 .K6

The RBC has just prioritized the cataloging of the books in Paul Green’s library that relate to Japanese drama. The late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and former UNC professor spent three weeks in Japan in 1951. There, Kabuki theater made a deep impression on him. An article on his visit in the November 7, 1951, issue of the Nippon Times quotes Green on Kabuki: “Japan’s got the best acting and the best produced plays I have ever seen.”

Green, a lover of books, brought back a number of rare and valuable volumes on Japanese theater. These were eventually gifted to the UNC Library.  The plate reproduced above comes from a beautifully illustrated prewar volume on Kabuki makeup.

The color blue, associated in our part of the world with Carolina, was associated with spirits and demons in Kabuki theater. The frightening spectral face above sets a high standard for terrifying countenances, making it our staff pick for a Halloween post.

Green was reported to have wished to adapt elements of Kabuki staging to his outdoor dramas. He also had a keen interest in the expressive power of Kabuki makeup as demonstrated by his book collecting, including the volume featured above.

The Japanese books from Green’s library promise to be a valuable resource for students of Asian theater at UNC.

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