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Mishima on Stage
The Black Lizard & Other Plays
edited & introduced by Laurence Komniz

Mishima on Stage presents nine remarkable plays to English readers for the first time. These plays, written between 1949 and 1962, demonstrate Mishima’s breadth and originality as a playwright. Four are new kabuki plays that combine classical language and lyricism, the dance, music, and spectacle of traditional kabuki, and iconoclastic notions of class and morality that are “pure Mishima.” Five are shingeki plays, including the tightly written one-act Steeplechase, which fuses contemporary psychological realism with the structure of a tantric Buddhist exorcism ritual, and The Black Lizard, a campy, romping, romantic, detective mystery full of trickery and disguise.

One unifying theme shared among all the plays is the belief that deception and deceit are essential to human relationships. These character traits appear as hidden incestuous love that threatens to destroy an upper-middle class family (The Lighthouse), as weapons of choice for the powerless mistress of a business magnate (the modern noh play Yuya), or as the means to facilitate wholesome but socially forbidden romantic liaisons (two kabuki comedies). Mishima on Stage makes the genius of Japan’s leading postwar playwright more accessible and apparent than ever before.

Laurence Kominz opens the volume with a biography of Mishima that describes the triumphs and bitter conflicts that Mishima experienced during his career as a professional playwright, and presents what Mishima himself wrote about the theatre and his place in it. Kominz demonstrates that Mishima took his theatrical writing, directing, and company leadership very seriously indeed. As enjoyable as play writing could be for Mishima, it was by no means merely a pastime or avocation. A foreword by Donald Keene places Mishima’s work in a personal perspective.

Laurence Kominz, editor, translator, and author of the Introduction, is a student of Donald Keene and a Columbia University Ph.D. in Japanese Literature. He is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at Portland State University and author of Avatars of Vengeance, Japanese Drama and the Soga Literary Tradition (1995) and The Stars Who Created Kabuki: Their Lives, Loves, and Legacy (1997), as well as numerous articles about and translations of Japanese drama. He studies kyōgen acting and nihon buyō dance and directs student productions of kyōgen and kabuki.

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 59
Published 2007, 340 pp.
ISBN 978 1 929280 42 1, hardback, £40.00
ISBN 978 1 929280 43 8, paperback, £15.99