"Rashomon" by Fay and Michael Kanin

Ryƫnosuke Akutagawa's two short stories "Rashomon" (1915), also known as "The Rashomon Gate", and "In a Grove" (1921), also known as "The Cedar Grove", were famously fused and adapted as the basis for Akira Kurosawa's award-winning film Rashomon (1950), screenplay by Akutagawa and frequent collaborator Shinobu Hashimoto. In 1951 the film won an honorary International Academy Award, following the success of the film in winning a Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in the same year. The Kurosawa and Hashimoto screenplay deviates from Akutagawa's original stories in a number of ways, most notably by allowing a note of hope to triumph over Akutagawa's dark pessimism. The Kanins' somewhat sentimental script sticks closely to the film, including elements added by Kurosawa that do not appear in Akutagawa's original short stories. The Kanins' script was also staged on U.S. television as a "Play of the Week" (1960). East West Players presented the first intimate staging of the Kanins' script, as their inaugural production in 1966.


The action takes place in Kyoto, Japan, about a thousand years ago - at a corner of the Rashomon Gate, at a police court and in a nearby forest. Brooks Atkinson would write in his review of the show "Three odd characters, seeking shelter from the rain under the ruins of an old gate, try to discover the truth about a rape and a murder. The wife of a samurai has been raped in the forest by a bandit and the husband has been slain. While the three odd characters are discussing what they have heard, four versions of the crime are acted in the adjoining forest. In every version, the essential facts are the same. But in all of them the characterizations differ.

Notes in the original playbill: Before the time of the play, Rashomon was the largest gate in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It was 106 feet wide and 25 feet deep; its stone wall rose 75 feet and was topped by a ridge-pole. With the decline of the West Kyoto, the gate fell into bad repair and became a decayed relic with an unsavory reputation, a place which most people bypassed - if they could.

Characters (order of appearance)

  • Priest
  • Woodcutter
  • Wigmaker
  • Deputy
  • Bandit
  • Husband
  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Medium

Production History

Date Venue Company
Mar 2, 1988 Union Square Theatre Roundabout Theatre Company
Jan 27, 1959 Music Box Theatre
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