JAPAN: Kabuki to the Kremlin

Japan's Kabuki or People's Theater is nowhere near as stuffy as the ancient and stylized No drama, but in 300 years, even the Kabuki has become a bit hidebound. Back in 1931, Japan's top Kabuki player, jut-jawed Actor Chojuro Kawarasaki, decided to liberate his art.

Like many a Broadway and Hollywood contemporary, Actor Kawarasaki had a tickling Marxian social conscience. He organized a new Kabuki troupe called the Zenshinza (Forward-Looking Theater), set up shop in a sleek, modern playhouse outside Tokyo, defied tradition by hiring women actors to play female parts and began mixing Western dramas with the Japanese classics....