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Zvika Serper

Zvika Serper

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12

Zvika Serper is Professor of East Asian Studies and Theatre Arts at Tel Aviv University, where he has also served as Head of the Department of East Asian Studies. He is a specialist in Japanese theatre and cinema, as well as a theatre director and actor. He studied in Japan for eight years, during which he pursued his research at the Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hōsei University, Tokyo, while also engaging in the practical study, training and performance of noh, kyōgen and kabuki with Japan's leading actors. During the past two decades, he has been exploring a new horizon that traditional Japanese theatres may open up for Western theatre by incorporating various Japanese aesthetics and techniques into acclaimed productions whose video recordings have been shown around the world. He has published widely on various aspects of Japanese theatre and cinema. He has given lectures/demonstrations and conducted master classes and workshops in acting and movement techniques at major theatres, acting schools, and universities in the US and in Europe.

Research Project

Interweaving Techniques and Aesthetics from Japanese Classical Theatre with Productions of Classical Western Plays

The concept of interweaving lies at the heart of Japanese culture, into which, over the years, various elements have been imported and interwoven with local elements in order to form new cultural manifestations. Such a process creates deep, rich and, in particular, syncretic cultural products. This syncretism, which fashioned and crystallized the traditional performing arts in Japan, remains a highly dominant factor in the search for new horizons in contemporary Japanese performing arts. The aim of the proposed research is to analyze the interweaving of techniques and aesthetics of classical Japanese theatre (noh, kyōgen or kabuki) with contemporary performances, and to examine the applicability of these elements to the production of new acting methods.
The research will cover two aspects: 

1. The training of contemporary performers to acquire traditional performing techniques and skills. The research will analyze several training methods that encompass the vocal and movement elements of classical Japanese theatre and are aimed at developing the performers’ expressivity and specific abilities, as well as examine the ways in which these have been incorporated into contemporary compositions.

2. An analysis of other quintessential elements in the acting of the three genres of classical Japanese theatre, and their potential contribution to modern acting, as well as a study of the way in which modern performers can train organically in these authentic elements and not simply imitate Japanese theatre.

Selected Publications

  • Serper, Z., “Classical Japanese Performance in a Contemporary Context: A Traditional Strategy of Juxtaposition,” in D. Jortner, K. I. McDonald and K. J. Wetmore (eds.) Modern Japanese Theatre and Performance, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.
  • Serper, Z., “Kurosawa’s Dreams: A Cinematic Reflection of a Traditional Japanese Context,” in Cinema Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 2001, pp. 81-103.
  • Serper, Z., “An Experiment in Fusion: Traditional Japanese Theatre and Modern Productions of Agamemnon and Macbeth,” in S. Scholz-Cionca and S. M. Leiter (eds.), Japanese Theatre and the International Stage, Brill’s Japanese Studies Library, vol. 12, Leiden: Brill, 2000, pp. 385-396.
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