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Two actresses in three acts: Gender, theater, and nationalism in modern Japan

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the emergence of actresses in modern Japan in the context of nation-building and empire-building. The two actresses, Kawakami Sadayakko and Matsui Sumako, can be seen as representing two different stages in the process in which modern Japan, modern Japanese theater, and modern Japanese actresses were shaped simultaneously, and helped shape each other. The rivalry between the two actresses, and the victory of Matsui Sumako over Kawakami Sadayakko, signifies the gradual taking over of a new regime of gender and theatrical performance. This chapter focuses briefly on three instances of this rivalry. The first instance is a well-known gem called Alt Heidelberg. Both Sadayakko and Sumako performed this play, though under different titles, and under very different circumstances. The second instance is the competing performances of Oscar Wilde?s Salomé. The third instance is of Maurice Maeterlinck?s Monna Vanna.

Keywords: Alt Heidelberg; gender; Kawakami Sadayakko; Matsui Sumako; modern Japanese theater; Monna Vanna; nation-building; Salomé



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