Realisms in East Asian Performance

Jessica Nakamura and Katherine Saltzman-Li, Editors
Essays by leading scholars expand understandings of theatrical realism through East Asian performances across premodern, modern, and contemporary periods
This title is open access and free to read on the web A free online version is forthcoming


Existing scholarly discussions of theatrical realism have been predominantly limited to 19th-century European and Russian theater, with little attention paid to wider explorations and alternative definitions of the practice. Examining theater forms and artists from China, Japan, and Korea, Realisms in East Asian Performance brings together a group of theater historians to reconsider realism through the performing arts of East Asia. 

The book’s contributors emphasize trans-regional conversations and activate inter-Asian dialogues on theatrical production. Tracing historical trajectories, starting from premodern periods through today, the book seeks to understand realisms’ multiple origins, forms, and cultural significances, and examines their continuities, disruptions, and divergences. In its diversity of topics, geographic locations, and time periods, Realisms in East Asian Performance aims to globalize and de-center the dominant narratives surrounding realism in theater, and revise assumptions about the spectacular and theatrical forms of Asian performance. Understanding realism as a powerful representational style, chapters collectively reevaluate acts of representation on stage not just for East Asia, but for theater and performance studies more broadly.
Jessica Nakamura is Associate Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Katherine Saltzman-Li is Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Praise / Awards

  • “While many studies exist on the classical and contemporary theatres of East Asia, a focus on modern drama and realisms – arguably the most popular forms of theatre with audiences in the region– have been widely overlooked and undertheorized… Well conceptualized, addressing a critical gap in knowledge in the field, and including texts by the leading scholars in the field, Realisms in East Asian Performance poses important questions about theatre and modernity in East Asia.”

    —Peter Eckersall, CUNY Graduate Center
  • “A groundbreaking work on directing theory and practice from a cross-cultural and comparative perspective. Well-articulated and convincing, the book succeeds in offering a more inclusive definition of realism and its varied practice that will be very useful for both Western and non-Western theater scholars.”

    —Xiaomei Chen, University of California, Davis
  • “Too often performance culture is divided into ‘traditional’ theatre (i.e., the indigenous performance traditions of a nation) and ‘modern’ (meaning Western-influenced naturalistic theatre developed after contact with Europe). This volume destroys that artificial bifurcation, offering a far more complex and nuanced reading of ‘traditional’ and modern Asian theatres than is seen in standard textbooks.”

    —Kevin Wetmore, Loyola Marymount University

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • 17 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2023
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-07642-0

  • $95.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2023
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-05642-2

  • $39.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2023
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-90384-9