In a recent interview for Tokyo Shimbun, Hōshō Kazufusa, iemoto of the Hōshō school, has commented on the current coronavirus crisis, saying that (I paraphrase) many people think that the tension perceived in a nō performance cannot be transmitted through videos, but there are things such as the breathing of the performers or the sweat dripping from their chins that film techniques can capture in order to convey the “drama” of nō performance.
I very much agree with this. The problem with YouTube videos of nō is that many of them are produced without the necessary attention to how the performances are filmed. Of course, there are reasons for this, including organization, timing, and, most importantly, budget. But there could also be a lack of awareness of the shortcomings and potentials of the video medium.
I think that there could be a future for nō videos if the quality improves. Filmed performances of kabuki, but also of the National Theatre or The Globe may serve as inspiration. The current crisis will eventually (hopefully) end, but the Internet is going to stay. I hope nō will be able to make good use of it.
The Japan Foundation London has organized Born Into A Noh Family: How the New Generation is Keeping the Tradition, an event featuring Takeda Takafumi (Kanze school shite actor), hosted by Dr. Ashley Thorpe (Royal Holloway University of London). The event is free of charge and will be hold on Zoom 2 July 2020 from 12.00pm (BST).
In the event, “Takeda will reveal the daily practices he has followed since childhood, his views on the pursuit of keeping the tradition alive, as well as how he and his family adapt to the changes and challenges of the present day.”
Recently, many nō performers have been using Zoom and other similar softwares to show bits of performances, to teach their amateur students, but also to “meet” online and share their experiences during this difficult time. I look forward to hearing how the discussion will unfold between Japan and the UK, countries that are experiencing very different levels of crisis related to the novel coronavirus.
[6/8 UPDATE] Ticket information and schedule has been updated.
The “Nogaku Festival”, planned in celebration of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has been re-branded as “Noh Performances 2020 – A Prayer for the Eradication of the Novel Coronavirus”（能楽公演 2020 新型コロナウイルス終息祈願）.
According to the official website, the performances will be held with various limitations, including allowing only a restricted number of spectators. Ticket information will be published later, but I suspect it will be necessary to book well in advance, especially because the content of the program has not changed. All events feature superstar actors performing very popular plays such as Ataka, Aoinoue, or Dōjōji.
In the last few days many public gatherings and events in Japan have been cancelled. Performing arts will suffer greatly from this situation – what to do when you cannot go to the theatre? Kyōgen unit Soja (Shigeyama family) has announced the live broadcast “Let’s meet on YouTube!” March 1st at 14:00 (Japan time). I look forward to seeing how this is going to work out!