Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Notes on Asian Drama

Drama is one of the oldest forms of literature. Like poetry, it predates literacy (and many of the earliest forms are in verse). Dramatic traditions different from western drama developed in non-European ancient civilizations and societies. 


The earliest form of Indian drama was the Sanskrit drama. It flourished between the 1st and the 10th centuries, which was a period of relative peace in the history of India during which hundreds of plays were written.

Sanskrit drama is regarded as the highest achievement of Sanskrit literature. It utilised stock characters, such as the hero (nayaka), heroine (nayika), or clown (vidusaka).

Urdu Drama evolved from the prevailing dramatic traditions of North India. Urdu theater tradition has greatly influenced modern Indian theatre. Among all the languages Urdu (which was called Hindi by early writers), along with Gujrati, Marathi and Bengali dramas have kept flourishing. In fact, all the early gems of Urdu Theater were made into films.


Chinese opera (Peking opera) is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE. There are numerous regional branches of Chinese opera, of which the Beijing opera (Jingju) is one of the most notable.

Masks are used in the opera; each colour has a different meaning. They are used to portray a character's role and illustrate their emotional state and general character.

White: Sinister, evil, crafty, treacherous, and suspicious. Anyone wearing a white mask is usually the villain.
Green: Impulsive, violent, no self restraint or self control.
Red: Brave, loyal.
Black: Rough, fierce, or impartial.
Yellow: Ambitious, fierce, cool-headed.
Blue: Steadfast, someone who is loyal and sticks to one side no matter what.


Japanese Nō drama is a serious dramatic form that combines drama, music, and dance into a complete aesthetic performance experience. It developed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has its own musical instruments and performance techniques, which were often handed down from father to son. The performers were generally male (for both male and female roles).

Kyōgen is the comic counterpart to Nō drama. It concentrates more on dialogue and less on music, although Nō instrumentalists sometimes appear also in Kyōgen. Kabuki drama, developed from the 17th century, is another comic form, which includes dance.


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