America’s Japan and Japan’s Performing Arts studies the images and myths that have shaped the reception of Japan-related theater, music, and dance in the United States since the 1950s. Soon after World War II, visits by Japanese performing artists to the United States emerged as a significant category of American cultural-exchange initiatives aimed at helping establish and build friendly ties with Japan. Barbara E. Thornbury explores how “Japan” and “Japanese culture” have been constructed, reconstructed, and transformed in response to the hundreds of productions that have taken place over the past sixty years in New York, the main entry point and defining cultural nexus in the United States for the global touring market in the performing arts. The author’s transdisciplinary approach makes the book appealing to those in the performing arts studies, Japanese studies, and cultural studies.
“Makes a statement about North American’s myopic view of the world and how influential arts presenters in New York City have fostered it. Thornbury proves that through programming and marketing decisions, American presenters have had much influence on a North American perception that labels ‘real’ Japanese culture as exotic, mysterious, and very much ‘other.’”
“Particularly valuable are the institutional histories of the Japan Society and La MaMa E.T.C., which demonstrate how different spheres of economic, political, and social capital brought Japanese performance to New York’s uptown and downtown scenes, helping first to ‘familiarize’ audiences with Japanese performance and then to ‘defamiliarize’ those expectations.”
—Theatre Research International
“A love letter to Japanese traditional and contemporary performing arts in New York and a detailed scholarly history of the reception and understanding of those arts and that history by Americans from the turn of the last century to the present moment. The volume is accessible, thought-provoking, detailed, and noteworthy for its scope.”
—Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., Loyola Marymount University