We reexamine ideas regarding the conveyance of social messages in three Japanese performing arts, considering structures of creation that impact what can and cannot be communicated to an audience, as well as creator-audience communication within a range of temporal, social, and cultural conditions.
Shively wrote about the efforts of the bakufu to control Edo-period kabuki and the effects of these efforts, and others have written about the strictures of censorship and political and social limitations in the performing arts. Our panel reexamines ideas regarding the conveyance of social messages in performing arts across the modern/premodern divide. We consider structures of creation that impact what can and cannot be communicated to an audience, and the ways in which creator/performer-audience communication can occur within different temporal, cultural, political, audience, and performance conditions. We pay particular attention to formulas and methods of creation that facilitate understanding between practitioners and audience in performance, and we consider the interconnection between changing audience composition and ways in which social issues can be addressed. These issues are considered through related topics in three different performing arts: kyōgen, kabuki, and naniwa bushi. Julie Iezzi discusses a new kyōgen she is directing at University of Hawai'i. She addresses the practical experience of creating and producing a new kyōgen that has as an aim "[rekindling the] satiric power of kyōgen as a tool for social change." She grounds this discussion in an examination of post-WWII shinsaku kyōgen as a force for social criticism. Katherine Saltzman-Li examines the shift from the cooperative playwriting system of Edo-period kabuki to the single author playwriting of Meiji/Taishō kabuki and the effects this shift had on the delivery and reception of social messages. In Edo-period plays, responses to the social environment emerge in suggestive and coded ways, in contrast to a more direct approach at the start of the modern period. Alison Tokita presents on performance-audience interaction in naniwa bushi, a "neo-traditional genre of musical story-telling that emerged as Japan was modernizing in the Meiji period," and the nature of recent naniwa bushi audiences. She discusses performance conditions and formulaic phrases that contribute to performer-audience communication. She also reports on the results of an audience survey she conducted in 2013 and her observations on changing audience social composition and behavior.