Tradition and Innovation in Japanese Theatre: A Conference in Honor of Leonard C. Pronko

japanese theatre

April. 1-2, 2022

This two day hybrid (in-person/zoom) international conference features panels and discussion with 18 renowned Japanese artists and scholars and a lecture-demonstration on the onnagata by members of the Japanese Dance Troupe Kansuma-kai. Sponsored by the Pomona College Department of Theatre and Dance, the Pacific Basin Institute, and the Pomona College Department of Asian Languages and Literatures.

The event will take place in the Rose Hills Theatre at Pomona College. Audience members may attend the live event in person or may attend via zoom. In person audience must present proof of full COVID vaccination and photo ID, wear masks while inside, and abide by any other health and safety measures in effect at Pomona College at that time.

Friday, April 1


  • REGISTRATION, in front of Rose Hills Theatre


  • Welcome -- Robert R. Gaines, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, and Members of the Conference Organizing Committee

12:45--1:55 panel 1

  • Kevin Wetmore, Loyola Marymount University–
    “Neokabuki for Millennials: Zombies, Anime and Ichikawa Ebizo XI’s Star Wars”
  • Susan Blakeley Klein, University of California, Irvine –
    “Rebels and Serpents in The Gold Shrine Offerings of Sarushima
  • Michelle V. Huynh, University of California, San Diego –
    “Modernizing the Intercultural Model: Directing Yukio Mishima’s Sotoba Komachi with a Western-based Production Team and for the American Audience”

2:00-2:20 Intermezzo – Remembering kabuki at Pomona

  • Mark Diaz (Pomona, 2022) and Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei (Pomona, 1969)–
    Leonard Pronko’s last kabuki student and one of his earliest reminisce: “Fifty Years of Training with Leonard”


  • Coffee Break

3:10-4:20 panel 2

  • Hana Lethen, Columbia Univeristy –
    “Reconfiguring Madness: Monogurui in the Nō Semimaru
  • Anthony Stott, University of Chicago –
    “Theatricality, Space, and the Emperor System in Yamaguchi Masao’s Writings on Nō”
  • Kathy Welch, University of Wisconsin, River Falls –
    “Using Tachimawari Combat Training for Youth Theatre”

4:25-5:35 panel 3

  • Katherine Saltzman-Li, University of California, Santa Barbara –
    “Playing with History: The Seventeenth-century Date Clan Dispute on the Kabuki Stage”
  • Laurence Kominz, Portland State University, assisted by Toshimi Tanaka
    “How We Prep and Rehearse Kabuki Extravaganzas at Portland State University”
  • Mariah Massengill, University of Houston, Victoria
    “The Turntable of Japanese Theatre Culture from Kabuki to Takarazuka”

Saturday, April 2


  • Welcome back – Members of the Organizing Committee

12:10-1:20 panel 4

  • Monica Alcanta, University of Bologna –
    “Juxtaposing Traditional Japanese Theatre With New Perspectives from the Intercultural Edge”
  • David Furumoto, University of Wisconsin, Madison –
    “Thoughts on Kabuki in the USA: The Past, Present and Future”
  • David Jortner, Baylor University –
    “Hidebound Police, Conservative Corners, and Kabuki Actors: The State of the Japanese Theatre Outside of Tokyo in 1947-1948”

1:25-2:55 Lecture-Demonstration

  • Students of Fujima Kansuma Classical Japanese Dance School, Los Angeles with Mark Diaz, Pomona College
  • Fujima Kansuzu, Fujima Kansumi, Fujima Kansue, and Fujima Kansubai will demonstrate and explain onnagata make-up and how to dress the onnagata with Mark Diaz, Pomona College.


  • Coffee Break

3:45-5:05 panel 5

  • Jonah Salz, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan
    “Tradition and Innovation in Kyōgen Training and Performance by Foreigners, 1960-Present”
  • Galia Petkova, Eikei University of Hiroshima, Japan
    “Gods in Gorgeous Gold, A Female Antagonist: Kabuki Staging Classical India”
  • Claudia Orenstein, Hunter College, CUNY
    “In Pursuit of Ritual Puppetry in Japan”

5:10-5:45 summing up

  • J. Thomas Rimer, University of Pittsburgh
  • Stanleigh Jones, Claremont Graduate University and Pomona College
  • Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, University of California, Los Angeles

Leonard Cabell Pronko (1927-2019) taught at Pomona College for 57 years. He was one of the English-speaking world's top experts on kabuki theatre.