Takechi Tetsuji (1912-1988), a kabuki and bunraku director and critic whose experimental “Takechi Kabuki” was much praised for its putative faithfulness to the original productions while it was harshly criticized by some critics for its free—almost arbitrary—interpretations of the “traditions” on which Takechi boastfully declared it to be based. This paper classifies the kabuki and bunraku plays Takechi produced into four periods and argues that the mixed reactions to them should be accounted for by a common tendency to confuse and conflate the approaches and styles Takechi adopted in each period by sketching out his disparate and sometimes incompatible theories, methods and praxis. This paper’s ultimate aim is to demystify the often self-mystifying Takechi and his misunderstood productions and writings so as to provide historical perspectives and more comprehensive understanding to evaluate his contributions to promoting and enriching traditional performing arts. By so doing, I also contend that examining Takechir’s modernist attempts to “return to the origin” would reveal that such origin(s) did not exist.
In his autobiographical writing and elsewhere, Derek Walcott acknowledges a Japanese influence on his early drama, associated with his youthful study in New York, but critical attention to this episode has been limited. It is possible to establish with some confidence what works he probably encountered: above all the films Ugetsu and Rashomon, the texts of the nô play Eguchi and perhaps some others, and secondary materials about Japanese theater. For a short period this Japanese archive visibly affects setting, atmosphere, and the use of literally dead or figuratively haunting characters in his plays. It also shapes two aspects of the plays about which Walcott was much concerned at the time: characterization and acting style. The notion of “creole” as opposed to “classical” acting that Walcott was formulating to develop a distinctively West Indian theater unexpectedly draws upon his limited exposure to Japanese culture, as does the seemingly very Caribbean notion of the “race containing symbol” explored in characters like Chantal and Makak. Analysis of the impact of these works on his own early plays (especially Ti-Jean and his Brothers,Malcochon,Dream on Monkey Mountain), enables us to describe more fully what he learned (or did not learn) from Japanese artists, how he employed what he learned in his own plays of this period, and what his objectives were.
Over the past few decades, the theatrical works of Derek Walcott have come to be seen as occupying a major strand of postcolonial literary criticism. Yet his recent play Walker (2002) remains surprisingly unexamined. The reason for this, in part, stems from the play’s geographical setting. Walker focuses primarily on the history of American slavery and abolition and, as such, cannot be fully understood within the existing framework of postcolonial or Caribbean literary criticisms. It is for this reason that in exploring Walker this essay works to integrate two different theoretical perspectives—postcolonial criticism and African American literary criticism. By referring not only to the work of such postcolonial and anthropological theorists as Frantz Fanon, Johannes Fabian, Helen Gilbert, Jacqueline Lo, but also to that of such black nationalist or diaspora theorists as Amiri Baraka, Stanley Stuckey, Michael Hanchard, the analysis that follows explores the play at the nexus between these theoretical insights. It argues that, although Walker seems to be an American historical drama, it in fact embodies the experimental blending of the U.S. black nationalist aesthetics and Caribbean aesthetics, producing what Walcott calls “an electric fusion of the old and the new.” The goal of this essay is to demonstrate the ways in which Walker juxtaposes two contradictory modes of theatricality. The first is the theatricality of revolution, premised on the ideology of black nationalism and militant politics. The second is the theatricality of syncretism, which reflects Walcott’s postcolonial aesthetics of syncretism, cross-culturalism, and mutual love that unites racially, nationally, and sexually divergent characters. The essay offers close readings of key scenes in Walker that evoke the elements of the black revolutionary theatre and syncre-theatre. In conclusion, I consider the implications these different modes of theatricality have for Walcott’s theatre aesthetics. I suggest that Walcott’s contradictory theatricality, which embraces both revolutionary theatre and syncre-theatre, should not be read as some form of his aesthetic inconsistency. Rather, this contradictory impulse toward both black nationalism and syncre-multiculturalism lies at the very core of Derek Walcott’s Caribbean theatre aesthetics. Respecting the past traditions of the U.S. black nationalism and the black revolutionary theatre, but at the same time blending them with the West Indian aesthetics, Walcott succeeds in creating Walker as a quintessentially transhistorical and transnational drama.
This paper examines the dynamics of Neo-colonialism via tourism, sex tourism, and foreign investment as seen in Nobel laureate Derek Walcott’s play Viva Detroit. In the drama tourism is seen as the precursor to invasion. Tourism is the driving force that leads to a retaking of former colonies by different agents through different means. Foremost among the tools of the takeover are media induced perceptions of hedonism, foreign purchase of prime property, economic relegation of local populations, and notions of integration between populations through romantic liaisons. The paper also explores the author’s intimation that the island takeover in some ways parallels the failure of the U.S. auto industry to adjust to the emergence of the Japanese auto industry. Viva Detroit is an unpublished two-act comedy written in 1990. It is set on the island of Saint Lucia in the late 20th century. The male protagonist is an island hustler named Sonny who trades sex for baubles until he meets his match in a tourist looking for more than fun in the sun. Sonny takes on several roles in order to seduce female travelers. The female antagonist is an upper middle class American photographer named Pat, who has returned to the island to purchase property. The character Pat doubles in a second role. In support of these two characters is the bartender named Ignacius who performs a balancing act between the two. The three characters are representative of the Caribbean (not in order, and with some overlap) as past, present, and future. The play engages the important issue of what happens to a small island population when it is overwhelmed by tourism.
This paper investigates a notion put forward by the first Nobel Laureate in Literature from the Caribbean region, Derek Walcott, of the establishment of a ‘national theatre’ as the foundation of British Caribbean islands’ theatrical arts, on the basis of an analysis of related newspaper articles from the early 1960s to 2013 as well as an interview conducted with Walcott by the author in January 2013. Theatre and drama often function as viable cultural tools for regions seeking independence from colonial rule; and a theatre building can for its part function as a cultural foothold. The former British Caribbean islands, including Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia, are no exceptions, especially since the 1950s, when political as well as cultural movements against the British colonial rule gathered steam. While a number of remarkable theatrical movements began to rise after the end of the Second World War, also tourism grew rapidly into the main industry of the whole region, expanding out of this economic role to affect society, culture, and the arts. The undesirable influences of tourism on the development of the region’s theatre and drama have been constantly reported on by Walcott and other artists. For instance, governments tend to give priority to tourism in the national budget, and the theatrical and other arts suffer as a result. In this paper, first, tourism’s negative influence on the arts is investigated, and then Walcott’s long-held idea of an ideal national theatre as a cultural institution is explained, with a focus on how it can support theatre artists in the region and also play an important role in the cultural life of the nation as audiences become able to encounter good performances of local plays that address their concerns.