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Re: Out of period but worth it - bunraku came to Berkeley

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  • tupan4
    Ah! I actually had a very lucky day on Friday and got to see the long version of the demo at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco! It was awesome. It s a
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 16, 2007
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      Ah! I actually had a very lucky day on Friday and got to see the long
      version of the demo at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco! It was

      It's a pretty unbelievable story: In town for three days for a
      wedding, I'd planned on spending Friday wandering around the tourist
      crap at Fisherman's Wharf, but it was raining. Really, really
      raining, with water pouring out of the sky - which never happens in
      San Francisco unless it's winter. So the beau and I decided to go to
      a museum. We picked the Asian art museum over MOMA for really no
      reason at all. We figured out from our tourist map where the bus is,
      and when we walked out there was a bus waiting there. We got to the
      museum at about 10 minutes to 2:00, and while paying the entry fee I
      happened to read a sign on the front desk about a bunraku demo that's
      going on at 2. So I said, hey, we could go to that. And we did. It
      was phenomenal.

      The troupe is the national Bunraku troupe of Japan, and they came to
      the Bay area because Kyoto and San Francisco (or possibly Berkeley)
      are sister cities. They went into a lot of detail about each job, the
      narrator and musician and the different puppeteers, and they took
      questions. They demonstrated a few scenes from the plays, and also
      showed an excerpt from a DVD.

      There was one scene from the DVD where a man (puppet) comes in from
      outdoors, takes his scarf off his head, and ties it around his neck.
      You could see that the puppeteers' hands were tying the knot, with the
      puppet's hands attached by a finger ring, but the illusion was very
      good. It wasn't until later that I realized the hands were from two
      different people!

      Some things I learned:
      - The foot man studies about 10 years to master feet before he can
      move on to another job. He gets to perform earlier in his studies,
      though. I think this is the entry level position.

      - The female dolls typically have no legs or feet, because they
      wouldn't show under their clothing. The foot man has to make them
      with his arms.

      - Although the female dolls don't have articulated faces, they do have
      a tiny pin in their mouths that is used to catch their sleeves in
      moments of great emotion. The puppeteer demonstrated a few spiffy
      head gestures that dislodge the sleeve without making it look like
      you're picking the sleeve up off a pin.

      I also thought it was cool how they were performing the puppets
      most of the time they were on stage. They brought out the husband and
      wife dolls to talk about how they worked them, but they actually
      walked the dolls onto stage and had them sit down, and the wife
      arranged her blind husband's clothing for him just right....

      Though I am wondering now how the Japanese ever talked about courtship
      before they borrowed the word "date" because whenever they talked
      about lovers meeting that's the word they used!

      At any rate, it was a great presentation and we were so lucky to
      happen upon it. It was worth having only an hour in the rest of the
      museum (we blew through the Japan wing, one temporary exhibit, and the
      gift shop).

      We later apologized to our friends who were getting married, because
      the rain Friday had them very nervous about their outdoor reception
      Saturday (but actually Saturday was gorgeous). The rain must have
      been arranged just for us.

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