Actor Kanzaburo leaves behind legacy of forward-looking Kabuki
When Nakamura Kanzaburo wowed audience members with his spectacular dancing skills as the son lion in the 1969 performance of "Renjishi" (The father and son shishi lions), he was just 13 years old. His innate talent combined with painstaking effort eventually turned him from a genius child actor into a leader among his generation, and finally one of the country's most pre-eminent actors.
Playing both male and female roles, Kanzaburo received high acclaim for his portrayals of both. As Shinza in "Kamiyui Shinza" (Shinza, the hairdresser), he was both intimidating and charming, and spoke his lines with such sharpness. When practicing dance in the character of Hanako in "Kyoganoko musume dojoji" (The dancing maid at Dojoji temple), meanwhile, he is said to have worn purposely weighted costumes to train for what is said to be Kabuki's most important dance.
Kanzaburo was insatiable when it came to his art. Whenever his son, Kankuro, received instruction from Kanzaburo's father-in-law, Nakamura Shikan, he would ask for details on what he had been taught.
He was bold but sensitive, seemingly unfettered but meticulous. This showed in the way he would hold his audience captive in a split second, and in the way he jumped into people's hearts. He had a sharp mind, and was an "ideas man" who wanted to give back to fans as much as he could, and had the ability to get things done.
"I'm always thinking ahead. Not about whether things are good or bad, but whether I will do them or not," Kanzaburo said at his 2005 name-succession ceremony. "I'll probably maintain that approach from now on, too. I have a good gut instinct. I have good luck, and encounters with a lot of people."
Out of a desire to create "fun" Kabuki, Kanzaburo commissioned writers of contemporary and fringe theater to write new scripts. With Hideki Noda, he created the Noda version of "Togitatsu no utare" (Revenge on Togitatsu), and with Kankuro Kudo, "Oedo ribingu deddo" (Oedo living dead). He also put on "Cocoon Kabuki" shows with director Kazuyoshi Kushida at Theater Cocoon in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, and set up a temporary theater called Heisei Nakamura-za, which captured the theater-going experiencing during the Edo Period.
Kanzaburo also enthusiastically held performances overseas, and took Heisei Nakamura-za on tour to New York and Europe.
"I want to delve deeper (into Kabuki). I'd like to go both deeper and broader," Kanzaburo said at his name-succession ceremony. His death came not long before the opening of the newly renovated Kabuki-za theater that he had very much looked forward to. His passing is a great loss. (By Shoko Kodama, Tokyo Cultural News Department)
December 05, 2012(Mainichi Japan)