Asian Theatre Essay, Research Paper
Asian theatre is comprised of more than one geographic area. It consists of India, China and Japan. Each brought their own uniqueness to Asian theatre. Asian theatre as it pertains to China will be discussed in this chapter. Ancient Chinese chronicles mention other theatrical activities such as skits, pantomimes, juggling, singing and dancing. This serves as an indication that there were early Chinese versions of popular entertainment.
During the Yuan Dynasty, China was ruled not by a Chinese emperor but rather by a Mongol. There was an outbreak of drama in the Yuan Dynasty. Yuan drama was usually written in four acts. Usually the leading character sang all of the music in any given act. The poetic content in these plays was considered the central factor in their success. One of the most famous plays that have survived from this period is The Romance of the Western Chamber, by Wang Shifu. Also, by this point both males and females alike were performing on stage.
Chinese theatre in the Ming Dynasty, which came when the Mongols were overthrown after the Yuan Dynasty, brought back traditional social behavior. A Chinese emperor was restored to the throne during this time. Dramatists reverted to writing only for the elite, and theaters lost contact with the broad public. Lute Song by Gao Ming was a best known play of this time. It dealt with questions of family loyalty. In particular it dealt with a husband leaving his wife abandoned.
Beijing Opera was formed from elements of folk theater and other genres popular among ordinary people. It was originally called Peking Opera because for many years it was known westerners as Peking. It is not like the grand opera of the west. It combines music and theater, but is also based on dance and even acrobatics. The theater arrangement for these operas are like a modern dinner theater. The audience has dinner and drinks as the performance goes on. The costumes and makeup are also very symbolic.
Chinese theatre has its own uniqueness. Although other areas of theatre have used makeup and costume symbolically, Chinese theatre symbolism is exaggerated more. The bright costumes and lavish makeup tell you a story about these characters, not only their emotion. The colors and patterns of makeup signal to he audience what kind of character the performer is playing.