Katarzyna Osińska, Japonia i „japońskość” w teatrze rosyjskim



Katarzyna Osińska, Japan and “Japaneseness” in Russian Theater in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

The interest in Japan and its arts, including theater, was part of a vast phenomenon in Russia, which incorporated a fascination with the Orient at the turn of the century. Japanese art started to evoke more serious interest in the first decade of the 20th century when it became one of the factors inspiring the transition of the theater. The author of the article poses the question, what did the Russian artists, especially Vsevolod Meyerhold, understand through the concept of “old Japanese theater”. Meyerhold’s encounters with Japanese theater were accidental, which calls forth a reflection on mechanisms of absorbing the elements of another culture. Meyerhold, not knowing Japanese theater from his own experience, was drawing inspiration from art that was seen by the Japanese themselves as “pseudo-kabuki”. Russian theater was incorporating therefore either the images of Japanese theater coming from indirect sources (hence the common lack of precise understanding of differences between certain genres like Kabuki or Noh), or forms which did not fit in the category of “traditional Japanese theater” – and it was those phenomena, subjected to transformation, that contributed to the change (renewal) of Russian (and in a wider context, European) theater art in the first two decades of the 20th century.