Noh Theatre Japanese Theatre Noh Theatre • Noh theater employs verse, prose, choral singing and dance • depicts formal themes—such as life and death, drama and illusion, and Zen Buddhist spirituality—based on religious tales and folk myths. Noh Theatre • The main characters are often military heros and the ghosts of the people they killed who haunt them and seek revenge. The Noh performed today is virtually the same as Noh performed in the Middle Ages. Noh Theatre • Thematically, Noh has tended to have strong supernatural elements. • Stylistically, it is very structured with nearly all the movements being tightly choreographed. • Visually, Noh features very austere stage sets and sumptuous costumes and dramatic masks. Noh Theatre • Until the late 1800s, Noh was performed in the open air in gazebo-style stages on the ground of temples. In the Meiji period drive toward Westernization Noh was moved indoors into to a theater with a peaked roof supported on four pillars. • The square stage is made of cypress wood. The main actors make their entrance on a hashi-gajkari bridge lined with pine trees. • The only adornment is a pine tree painting that serves as the universal background and evokes the days when performances were held outside History of Noh Theatre • Noh is one of the world's oldest continuallyperformed types of theater and the oldest of Japan’s traditional performing arts. • It has it roots in mime, acrobatics and sarugaku (literally "monkey music"), a form of dance-drama associated with agriculture, from the early Heian Period (794-1185) and has had some links to China. • In the early days, performers came from the lower classes and served as both entertainers and as performers of religious ceremonies. History of noh Theatre History of Noh Theatre • Some scholar suggest that Noh grew out of gigaku, a form of comical, silent drama where the actors wear different masks, and there's musical accompaniment from percussion and flute. • In 752, a magnificent ceremony was held to consecrate the new Buddha statue in Nara. A gigaku play was also performed. A 7th century gigaku mask in the Shoso-in collection depicts a ruddy-faced foreign king who lead a group of drunken men. It’s high bridged- nose and other strong features have led some to speculate the king was supposed to be a Persian. Gigaku is thought to have originated in the Wu kingdom of ancient China and was introduced to Japan by the Paekche kingdom on the Korean peninsula. History of Noh Theatre • Noh was performed at Kofukuji Temple in Nara in A.D. 869 during Buddhist Shunie ceremonies to pray for national prosperity. • Ishun Moriya, a senior priest at the temple, told the Daily Yomiuri, “The performance contained many mystical elements in the earliest days because they were performed by Buddhists priests to thank Buddha for warding off evil... History of Noh Theatre • Gradually the spectrum broadened to include more entertaining elements. Noh plays featuring Buddhist rituals came to be performed by professionals, and the spectacle’s reputation spread among nobles and others...These performers received handsome benefits from the elite administrators because their enrichment of the temple’s rituals was highly valued.” History of Noh Theatre • Noh was traditionally performed at Buddhist temples. The use of masks and the frequent appearance of ghosts is based in the fact that Noh originated in a time of war and upheaval when many people were preoccupied with death and the afterlife. History of Noh Theatre • Noh settled into its present form around the 14th century. In the mid 14th century noh was dominated by humorous and entertaining plays known as sarugaku or sangaku. The pioneers of the Noh form were the playwright Kanami (1333-1384) and his son, Zeami (1363-1443). The first Noh performances was when 12year-old Zeami and Kanami danced sarugaku in front of the 18-year-old shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1374 in Kyoto. Under the patronage of Yoshimitsu, Zeami and Kanami developed Noh by incorporating elements of their performing arts, poetry and classical and current topic into the dance. History of Noh Theatre • Noh became the official art form of the samurai class and enjoyed by famous Japanese historical figures such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotimi Hideyoshi. In the Edo Period (16031868), a single Noh performance could take up an entire day and themes were often things close to samurai’s heart, such as honor, duty and revenge and Zen austerity. History of Noh Theatre • Five schools of Noh are still in existence. The humorous forms of sarugaku survived as an independent art form that came to be known as kyogen, which has traditionally been performed in the intervals between Noh plays. Noh Masks • The elaborate masks in Noh theater are usually expressionless, which means that it is the responsibility of the actor to convey emotion through body movements. The masks represent the characters minds and hearts and trace their origins back to exorcism and rice planting rites. Noh Masks • Specific masks are associated with specific characters. A devil-like, horned mask, for example, is worn by an actor playing Hannya, the jealous, revengeful demon who was once a beautiful woman. Noh masks have been used by engineers developing robots that respond accurately to human facial expressions. Noh Masks There are around 60 basic masks each with their own name. Some have variation. If these are included there about 200 different types. Some schools have their own masks which are hundreds of years old. In the old days the masks were made from paulownia or camphor but today most are made from hinki cypress because it has few knots and a straight grain. Noh Masks • The masks are carefully made with a lack of symmetry in the features. They are painted with three or four layers of a pigment made of ground seashell and animal glue an then sandpapered. These steps are repeated several times so create a smooth surface. Shading is achieved using brown pigments made from soot boiled in rice wine, Most facial features are painted with India ink. The teeth were often black (blackened teeth were a fashion statement in Japan until the 19th century). Masks for supernatural being have gold dust mixed with glue. The back of the mask is painted red, waxed, and chemically burned. The art making masks has been passed down over generations from father to son. Noh Masks • The oldest wooden mask in Japan was found in the Makimiku ruins Sakurai, Nara. Used perhaps in an agricultural ceremony that influenced Noh, it was carved with a farming hoe in the early A.D. 3rd century. The masks is 21.5 centimeters long and 31,5 centimeters wide and has no holes for straps which indicated it was probably held up with hands, Noh Costumes Noh costumes are very lavish and elaborate. In the old days they were taken care of by nobility and guarded by the military. The costumes have a basic straight line cut and consist of a knee-length padded silk robe worn with a small pillow to give the abdomen a rounded look; a long stiff divided skirt and outer robe. Different robes or worn by the male and female characters. Accessories include wigs and fans. Noh Costumes • The way the garments are worn often has a special meaning, the right sleeve flipped off and dropped over the performer’s back, for example, indicates active movement or madness. An outer robe tacked onto the pants indicates a lady of the court. If a considerable amount of dancing is done lighter garments are worn. Dressers are generally a thing of the past the actors generally dress each other. Noh Performers • Noh features only male actors. A Noh troupe consists of the tachikata (performers who don masks, act and dance) and the hayashikata (musicians who are in charge of beating time and intensifying the emotional atmosphere of the play). Some Noh roles are regarded as so special that Noh actors are only allowed to play them once in their lifetimes. Noh Performers Noh Performers • A typical Noh performance employs three or four musicians. Traditional instruments in the Noh wind and percussion ensemble include the nakan (a vertical flute) and tsuzumi (small hand drums). The musicians sometimes shout and sing when they perform. Big clay pots are placed sin hollow spaced beneath the wooden stage to amplify sound, mainly footsteps and drumming. Noh Performers • There are two main types of Noh actors: the shite (the one who acts, protagonist) and the waki (the one who watches, antagonist). The main characters are shites (pronounced sh’tay) who usually wear masks. They are generally a supernatural being such as ghosts, demons, gods or ghosts—or a woman. Waki nether wear a mask or make up because they represent living, breathing men. Noh Performers • A typical performance features a shite, a waki, four musicians at the back and eight chorus members slightly off stage left. The story is relayed by the chorus, accompanied by the musicians. • Most actors are trained in family run schools. There are currently only four schools (three in Tokyo and one in Kyoto). Many famous actors come from Noh families and make their first appearances when they are 4 or 5. Noh Performers Noh Performances • "Noh is essentially a form a religious theater with aesthetic coded defined by the austerities and minimalism of Zen." • It combines music, dance, drama and instrumental music. Unlike kabuki, which emphasizes grand gestures and spectacle, Noh gets its punch from subtlety and understatement. The sets are usually empty of props and the masks are intended to keep facial expressions from performers who aim to express themselves through slow movement that are regarded by admirers as economical but powerful. Noh Performances • Noh actors follow strictly prescribed footsteps and movements across the stage. In may ways, Noh is better appreciated as a form of visual art one contemplates and mediates over while watching rather than a performing art that is expected to be entertaining. Many Westerners artists, Y.B. Yeats in particular, were mesmerized by Noh and what it tried to do. Noh Performances • Noh is full of symbolism. In many Noh dramas the shite is spirit or ghosts who remains in one place because of some tragedy and role of the waki is to demask him. The demasking usually brings an end to the first act, with the second act being a recreation of the tragedy, which is can be a cathartic process or a painful one, depending on how the play is written or interpreted. Noh Plays • Tsuchigumo (“The Ground Spider”) is a classic tale of brave warriors confronting a terrifying spider monster. The main character, Raiko, is based on a historical figure from about 1,000 years ago. The spider image is said to have originated from a disparaging term for indigenous people and is thus seen as a commentary on the way that Raiku may have treated indigenous people and the way the indigenous people rebelled. In the most dramatic seen four warriors attack the spider who responds by emitting threads that look like white washi paper fireworks. The slaying of the spider is seen as Raiku’s victory over the indigenous people. Noh Plays Noh Plays • Okina, the oldest play in the Noh repertoire, is rarely performed. Hagoromo, one of the classics of Noh theater, is about a fisherman that finds a beautiful robe hanging from a pine tree. When an angel comes to claim it, the fishermen refuses to turn it over. After being enlightened about the foolish ways of humans he reluctantly hands the robe over and is rewarded with a dance by the angel. Noh Plays • Sesshoseki (“The Life-Killing Stone) is a famous Noh story about a monk that happens on a mysterious stone with no plants or living things around. A woman suddenly appears and tells the monk the stone contains the spirit of a woman who became an emperor’s concubine in a bid to overthrow the ruling dynasty and was killed and driven into the stone by a priest. The woman then revealed herself to be the spirit of the stone and asks the monk to pray for her so she can stop killing. Noh Plays • Lady Senju like many classic Japanese tragedies is based on an incident from the Heike Monogatari (“The Tale of the Heike”), an epic takes set during the 12th century when the Taira (Heike) and Minamoto (Genji) clans battled for control of Japan. In the story the hero Taira no Shigehara has been captured by the enemy and taken to Kyoto most likely to be put to death. Munemochi, a Minamoto retainer, take pity on him and sends the elegant courtesan Senju to entertain and console him for what might be his last night on earth. Most of the play’s action revolves around a banquet with sake and music and dancing prepared by Senju for Shigehira. Noh Plays • In Lady Senju Senju and Shigehire make beautiful mimed music together on the biwa and koto. The only music heard comes from the flute and drums of the Noh musicians. A sexual union is suggested by a scene in which the pair face each other and hold fans, which symbolize pillows. Other Noh Plays • Other include Hibariyama, a Snow-White-like tale of daughter sent in the forest by a servant ordered to kill her; Utou, the story of a hunter, who from the dead expresses remorse over all the animals he has killed; Tome, about a troubled mistress of a teenage warrior; and Kanawa, the story of a scorned woman who becomes an evil spirit and attacks her husband Conclusion • Noh is alive outside of Japan. The Theater of Yigen in San Francisco has been staging Noh performances for more than 25 years. One American fan told the Daily Yomiuri she liked Noh because it “creates another kind of reality” and “pushes aside the veils that we have between time and space.” • Noh is invigorating itself in Japan by integrating influences from the outside. Kuniyoshi Ueda, a professor at Shizuoka University, has dedicated his life to producing Noh versions of Shakespeare plays in Japanese and English. Ueda pioneered the idea while on Fullbright scholarship at Harvard doing a Noh version of Hamlet, which has been staged over 100 times in a number of countries, including Australia, China, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Vietnam. An Ueda-choreographed Noh version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was performed in Norway, Definitions Shite: The main character of a Noh play – protaginist (pronounced sh’tay) Waki: Antagonist of Noh Play Yuugen: Elegant & Ideal beauty – Main ideas from many Noh Plays Definitions Kyogen: shorter, humorous plays within a Noh Performance Hayashi: instrumentalists who play instruments during Noh Performances Koken: stage hands for Noh Performances (1-3 people) Kami Mono: typically feature the shite in the role of a human in the first act and a deity in the second and tell the mythic story of a shrine or praise a particular spirit. Definitions: Shura Mono: warrior plays) have the shite often appearing as a ghost in the first act and a warrior in full battle regalia in the second, re-enacting the scene of his death. Katsura Mono: woman plays) depict the shite in a female role and feature some of the most refined songs and dances in all of Noh. Kiri No: demon plays) usually feature the shite in the role of monsters, goblins, or demons, and are often selected for their bright colors and fast-paced, tense finale movements. Definitions Mugen Noh: usually deals with spirits, ghosts, phantasms, and supernatural worlds. Time is often depicted as passing in a non-linear fashion, and action may switch between two or more timeframes from moment to moment. Genzai Noh: as mentioned above, depicts normal events of the everyday world. However, when contrasted with mugen instead of with the other four categories, the term encompasses a somewhat broader range of plays. Geki Noh: drama plays are based around the advancement of plot and the narration of action. Definitions Furyu Noh: dance plays focus rather on the aesthetic qualities of the dances and songs which are performed. Kagami-ita: The back wall of a noh stage is called the kagami-ita on which a pine tree called the oi-matsu is painted. Waki-bashira: Area in front, right corner where the Waki sits through-out the play Shite-Bashira: Area in rear, left corner where the Shite sits through-out the play Definitions Fue-Bashira: rear, right corner, closest to the flute player Hashigakari: bridgeway stretches from the main stage to the mirror room.