Education About Asia: Online Archives

Modern Asia Through Drama and Theatre

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By Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.

To many in the West, especially students, Asian performing arts means the traditional arts: kabuki, n¬, jingju (Beijing Opera), and kathakali. Many are also familiar with the cinema of Asia, thanks to the growth in popularity of the cinemas of China (Hero), Japan (via anime and Americanized versions of Japanese films such as Ju-on and Ringu), and India (via a growing awareness of “Bollywood”). Yet between premodern tradition and postmodern cinema is a century of modern Asian theatre and drama—over a hundred years of non-traditional plays and performances that embody all of the social, political, and cultural concerns of Asia as it encountered the West and then began to modernize.