“Kabuki theater” means roughly: a tale of smoke and mirrors, full of sound and fury, but signifying almost nothing. A big, showy production, utilizing stylized movement, while the real action goes on behind the scenes.

The word “Kabuki” symbolizes a traditional Japanese form of theater that is sometimes translated as “the art of singing and dancing.”

Kabuki was popular among the common townspeople but not to the people of the higher social classes.

Kabuki plays are generally about historical events, moral conflicts, or love relationships. The actors use archaic  language which is difficult to understand for modern Japanese people, and the actors speak in somewhat monotonous voices and wears elaborate make-up.

Kabuki takes place on a rotating stage (kabuki no butai) that is usually equipped with several  trapdoors through which the actors can appear and disappear. Another specialty of the kabuki stage is a footbridge (hanamichi) , literally “flower path” that leads through the audience.

When kabuki  first started only female actors were part of the cast, and the performers were often also available for prostitution,  but kabuki with female actors was banned in 1629 for being too erotic. Without women the next phase of kabuki involved young (adolescent) men who were preferred for women’s roles due to their less masculine appearance and the higher pitch of their voices compared to adult men. Unfortunately, they too were often involved in prostitution; so, Kabuki switched to adult male actors, called yaro-kabuki in the mid 1600’s, were male actors played both female and male characters.

Kabuki in the language of the stage is used to designate a curtain which hides the set and is rigged to fall off on cue to reveal the set.

The word kabuki may also refer to stagehands who are dressed in black and are regarded by audience as invisible.

So let’s see; prostitutes, arcane language, and invisible stagehands. Yes, that sounds like Washington D. C. to me!

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