Famed Kabuki actor, Tamasaburo Bando, in Wisteria Maiden.
Listed as a piece of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on UNESCO, Kabuki is a traditional theater form of Japan. Kabuki originated in the Edo period, originally as a woman’s dance and theater performance. In 1629, Women’s Kabuki was banned for its erotic content, and Kabuki switched to all-male performers.
As a theater performance which includes dance, it’s worth noting:
Kabuki is a repertory theatre. That is to say, most of the repertoire of plays and dances are quite regularly performed, and so most works are already known to the majority of actors. For this reason, in traditional Kabuki there is no such person as a director. Instead, that function is sometimes fulfilled by the leading actor who will determine which version of the play is being performed according to his family’s performing conventions, (called kata). However, even this will not normally affect most subsidiary actors much since they will already know their roles. From early youth, an actor’s training includes practical experience and he is expected to learn a vast number of plays and dances. By the time he is a mature performer he should need nothing more than a refresher to jog his memory.
For this same reason there is very little rehearsal time required… or available! A Kabuki run at any theatre usually begins in the first few days of the month and lasts until just a few days before the end of that month. The actors must begin to prepare for the following month’s roles during the month in which they are playing other parts.
Naturally, brand new works or revivals are exceptions as they require more preparation.
— Kabuki: Official Website