Hiroshima, July 9th 2010. A Prayer for Peace: “GENSHIGUMO” The Atomic Cloud

July 9 (Friday), 2010  6:30 p.m. ~ 8:30 p.m.
Venue:  The Hiroshima Aster Plaza Noh Theater
4-17 Kakomachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima 730-0812

Genshigumo (‘The Atomic Cloud’), Udaka Michishige’s third newly-written noh play (新作能), composed as requiem for the victims of the atomic bombs, will be performed in Hiroshima for the first time. I had the pleasure to attend performances of Genshigumo in Paris, Dresden and Berlin in 2007, when the Udaka-kai was touring Europe. The experience of watching a Noh play performed in the traditional style based on such recent historical facts is particularly strong, and inspired several reflections. While watching the different characters of the play recounting the tragic events of the bombing of Hiroshima in highly poetic language and beautifully stylised movements, I realised how much Noh theatre’s aesthetic conventions are suitable to portray a story of such historical but also emotional relevance. The austere style of Noh, which does not indulge in easy heart-tearing devices, plunges the audience in the solemn atmosphere of a requiem, while maintaining the detachment necessary in order to consciously reflect on what war and its casualties mean.

I am looking forward to joining in this prayer.

>>>For further information and reservation, please visit the Udaka-Kai website<<<

Taikai 2010 – the aftermath

This year’s INI International Noh Institute – Keiunkai Taikai, in celebration of 50 years of stage life of Master Actor Udaka Michishige, has come to a close. It is difficult to draw all the impressions on such a special event in one single post. There are so many aspects and viewpoints it would be necessary to include and, in the attempt to include everything (and everyone) I would end up not doing justice to all of them. I will maintain the very personal take that has been the line of this blog so far.

Noh: ‘Makiginu’. Tsure: Diego Pellecchia

On the occasion of this Kai I could for the first time take part of the full production of a Noh play, Makiginu, in the role of the tsure. As in a dream, my memories of the performance are blurred and spotty. I stand behind the omaku curtain, in the kagami no ma mirror room, I can appreciate the quality of the lights coming from the stage, through the five colours of the curtain. The lights, and the cries of the hayashi call for my entrance. Although that of the tsure is a subsidiary role, its rather long initial chant substantially contributes to set the mood of the play. I felt invested of this responsibility while treading on the hashigakari for the first time. Slowly pivoting on my feet to face the matsubame pine on the backdrop of the stage, the beats of the drums give room to my chant, as I begin my long trip to Mikumano…

Taking part of a full Noh is a privilege that only a very few foreigners had in the century-old Noh tradition. Infinite gratefulness and deep respect go to those who are teaching me this way: Master-Actor Udaka Michishige, Shihan Rebecca Ogamo-Teele and Monique Arnaud, whose relentless efforts to transmit Noh theatre to foreigners is, I believe, the greatest, unconditional expression of love for the art of Noh.

INI – International Noh Institute Gala Recital

This year’s INI – International Noh Institute Gala Recital celebrates 50 years of stage life of its founder, Master-Actor Udaka Michishige (Kongo School).

Noh: Yuki (‘The Snow’)

Makiginu (‘The Rolls of Silk’)

The program will also include a variety of chant and dance excerpts. Foreign and Japanese students of Udaka Michishige will perform on stage. Information material will be available in English and Japanese.

Place: Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto. Subway Karasuma line: get off at Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit 6, walk South 300m and find the theatre on the right.

Time: 12 June 2010 (Sat) 1:00pm – 5:30pm.

Fee: Free of charge. The audience is free to come and go quietly.

A reception will follow from 6:30pm (fee: 1000 yen). Come share your impressions on Noh theatre and to talk to the teacher and the performers! Meet us at ‘Tenshokan’(天正館)2nd Fl., Mukadeya-cho 380, Shinmachidori Nishiki-koji-agaru Subway Karasuma-Shijo, Exit 24, walk West, then North at Shijo-Shinmachi (about 5 minutes). Click here for a directions from the Kongo Theatre to Tenshokan.

FULL PROGRAMME

Map for the Kongo Nogakudo (金剛能楽堂)

The Fisherman’s Daughter

This is a demonstrative clip of Dr. Lee Stother’s The Fisherman’s Daughter, a Noh-inspired film/performance I had the chance to take part in during my first stay in Japan in Spring 2007. As a member of the International Noh Institute (Kongoh School), Lee has studied with Udaka Michishige and Ogamo Rebecca Teele in a number of different occasions, and the study and practice of Noh has greatly influenced her work as playwright/videomaker. Her The Fisherman’s Daughter is beautifully documented in the clip below.

Performing shimai abroad


18/09/09

Launch of the Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research at Royal Holloway University of London.

From the university website:

‘The Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, in operation from 2009, is a key feature of the Department’s research strategy. It fosters research across a range of historical, geographical, political and methodological spheres to advance cutting-edge thinking on theatre and performance topics with a distinct international inflection. The centre operates as an intellectual and structural support for researchers of all levels, from postgraduate through to senior staff, and an umbrella for individual and collaborative projects within the Department. It also facilitates links with innovative research centres, projects and networks within and beyond Britain, as well as with local performing arts bodies and their interpretive communities. Although its focus is primarily on theatre and performance research, the Centre is interdisciplinary in both spirit and practice, incorporating perspectives from anthropology, history, musicology, literary studies, film and cultural geography.’

Prof. Helen Gilbert (founder and director of the Centre) kindly asked me, as PhD student in the department, and as Noh practitioner, to take part of the launch and give a little demonstration for the large audience attending the event. My choice fell on the shimai Tamura no kiri, the last dance of the shuramono (ghost warrior Noh) Tamura. After having performed quite a few times for international audiences not necessarily acquainted with Noh theatre, I realised it is rather counterproductive to feed in the expectation of Noh as slow, refined, and boring. The kiri section of a shuramono piece is instead dynamic, energetic, powerful. In this case, the general Tamuramaro recounts how he annihilated a horde of demonic invaders with the help of Kannon’s powers (Kannon is the Japanese name of the Bodhisattva of Mercy Avalokitesvara).

After the performance, I received several interesting comments which generally expressed the surprise of many of the spectators in seeing such a dynamic Noh dance. The general expectation is that of stasis and sophistication and not of strong chant and jumps. The excitement of the comments and the numerous questions I received made me reflect on how little of Noh is known outside Japan. Last time I attended a full-day of Noh, with a piece performed for each of the five categories, I was amazed by how plays differ from each other – to the point that I had the illusion of seeing different genres on stage, not only Noh.

A few days after this day, I attended a performance by Noh professionals somewhere else – they chose to perform a sophisticated piece of the 3rd (women) group. They literally killed the audience, who were by rights unprepared to enjoy this complex play. The performance simply confirmed the commonplace of Noh as slow, cryptic, difficult and boring genre. I myself was bored, probably influenced by the communal spirit that sometimes takes over the stalls.

This again reveals the deep misunderstanding, or even indifference of many Japanese Noh performers for the needs of an audience which is not the usual, domesticated spectatorship they are used to in Japan. Noh offers such a great variety of plays which can be enjoyed by all sort of people – why performing Kokaji (The Fox Swordsmith) for children at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo while we get slow Genji Monogatari pieces? There is a lot to say about Orientalist assumptions … what about Occidentalist assumptions? We still have a long way to come…

(Photo © Jannie Rask)

Dramatic launch for new Drama and Theatre research centre

Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research