Kabuki thrives at ANU

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ANU Za Kabuki producer Waka Okumura (centre) says she’s found the club an excellent way to broaden her cultural horizons, and make friends within its community. Photo Eva Schroeder.

Since establishing in 1976, The ANU’s Za Kabuki Club has provided an avenue for both students and their wider Canberra audience to connect with the eclectic style of Japanese performance art.

The club’s aim has long been to introduce some unfamiliar aspects of Japanese culture to students, and to give them a medium through which they can practise and improve their Japanese outside of the classroom.

The longest running Kabuki troupe outside Japan, they originally began as a modern Japanese theatre group.

“At first they would perform Japanese theatre in the corridors, then it gradually developed in to a kabuki performance club,” says producer and club member Waka Okumura.

While they’re a relatively well-known community within Canberra, recently they’ve looked to expand their reach.

In 2016, Za Kabuki toured Japan and also toured to Melbourne as part of their 40-year celebrations.

When performing locally, they give the traditional theatre style a number of contemporary modifications to help local audiences connect with their performances.

“We perform in Japanese with English subtitles and include jokes that are a bit more modern and suited to the audience here.

“We also don’t act in a traditional style either because we don’t have the time – it would take decades to perfect it,” Okumura says.

A third year ANU student, this is Okumura’s second year in the club. She says Za Kabuki has been an excellent way to broaden her cultural horizons and to make friends within its community.

The group is composed entirely of ANU students, whose dedication extends to doing whatever’s required to assemble the sets and costumes for their productions.

“We have a stack of boxes filled with costumes that’s mostly comprised of donations from people within the Canberra Japanese community,” Okumura said.

“Most of the props and sets are then made by the backstage crew.

“Year by year we have to go through our storeroom to sort out what we have and what we don’t have, and make anything we need. It’s very hands on.”

For more details or to contact ANU Za Kabuki, visit anukabuki.wixsite.com/zakabuki

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