—Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy – The Village School —
This is one of the most popular plays in the repertory and was first performed in the puppet theater in 1746. It has appeared in Kabuki Kool many times and in this program, is featured because the setting of a Terakoya village school is recreated in the Kabuki-za Gallery and this is one of the spaces that people can experience.
The entire play is taken up in the program devoted to "Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy" in the Kazutaro season, but also see the notes to "Larger-Than-Life Heroes" and "Unique Kabuki Props" in the 2014 season for the "Kurumabiki" act "Kabuki's Leading Male Roles" in the 2014 season for the "Terakoya" act.
—The Five Thieves – The Inase River Scene—
This is one of the most famous plays by Kawatake Mokuami (1816 – 1893) and is usually called either "Benten Kozo (Benten, the Thief)" or "Shiranami Gonin Otoko (The Five Thieves)." It was first performed in 1862. The play culminates in a scene at the Inase river where all five thieves appear in resplendent kimonos with motifs associated with their names. They all carry matching umbrellas with the word "shiranami ('white wave,' a Chinese term meaning thief)" written on them. They have speeches in the poetic rhythm of Mokuami where they announce their names and careers.
This was originally a puppet play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon probably first performed in 1705. It is a jidaimono period play and the main characters represent the main schools of official artists to the samurai class, the Tosa and Kano schools of painting. Tosa Shogen has a pupil named Matahei who is extremely talented, but stutters and instead of rich commissions, must survive by painting cartoon-like Otsu-e. His fellow student gets a Tosa name by using painting to vanquish a tiger (actually a painting that has come to life) and in despair, Matahei prepares to commit suicide, first painting his portrait on a stone washbasin. But the power of his brush is such that the picture goes all the way through the stone.
—The Exotic Villain from Afar Tenjiku Tokubei—
The playwright Tsuruya Namboku IV (1755 – 1829) is famous for his ghost play "The Ghosts of Yotsuya," but his first big hit was this play, originally titled "Tenjiku Tokubei Ikoku Banashi" and performed in 1804 starring Onoe Matsusuke I. It later became a part of the Kikugoro tradition through Matsusuke's son, Onoe Kikugoro III (1784 – 1849). It tells the story of Tokubei, a villain on a grand scale who uses all kinds of magic, including the magic of toads. It is said that it was investigated by the shogunate and almost banned because of the possibility that they were using forbidden Christian magic to achieve the effects. But, if true, this story was probably a publicity stunt.