Sunday, February 24, 2013

Noh Theatre

From Nakumura
"By quite different means, the Noh serves a purpose analogous to that of the tea ceremony: withdrawal from the distractions of a busy, crowded, gregarious country into ceremonious quietness, in which there is space and time enough to look, calmly and with dignity, upon a few simple, beautiful objects and actions. If Noh can be described in a phrase, it is a theater of contemplation."

"When the suggestion of literal objects is required, the objects must undergo a theatrical transformation - a boat is reduced to the outline of its form, a palanquin is diminished to a small bamboo framework, the moon rises in the manipulation of a fan. The actor's face, his chief means of expression in the Western theater, is obliterated by a mask or by resolute expressionless. The movement and gesture of the actor, exempt from the strictures of actual time and space are slowed to the point at which they can be contemplated, not merely seen. Although the structure of noh performance is built upon variations in and a gradual increase of the tempo, only in the final dance of a demon play (the last on the traditional program) is there a sense of vital movement. The dramatic personages, thus presented, similarly invite the detached contemplation of the audience. Since they are not, in the Western sense, characters, but types (and are so conceived by the actors), emphatic involvement, as with actors who portray "real people' are impossible."

"In most Noh plays the personae are beyond life. They are immortal gods. They are dead warriors, dead murderers, dead lovers, whose inability to free themselves from their pasts binds them, as ghosts, to the world of appearances. All that is left of them is memory-not the encyclopedic memory of Proust, recapturing the past by re-creating its smallest details-but the essence of the experience of having lived, the cognition of what remains when the activity of life is over. How it was to have killed one's enemy, to have been r and beautiful, to have lost a child, to have loved. As calmly and slowly as the play moves, the figures of the dead meditate upon the past, and the audience, meditating upon the figures, contemplate this view of life. All is flux, change, evanescence. Attachment to life, even to the memory of passion, is pain. To be done with living, with the "chain of causation" which binds one to life, is felicity."

"Ours is, on the whole, a theater of action, in which the characters are realized in their involvement with other characters, with events, with the here and now. Only infrequently do they pause, as Hamlet does, withdrawing from the immediacty of action in order to reflect upon it, to consider the effect of the flow of the past into the presetn, to contemplate the shape of the future. This real of Wordsowrthian "emotion  recollected in tranquility" is the genesis of the Noh play and its performance."

Ionesco - "Japan's Noh is the avant-garde theater of the present. Its technique of all ages."

-Italian director - I saw something very basic in Noh, something that we of the West must have had in the past but have lost. Noh has the basic characteristics of drama in a strong simple form."

French playwright Paul Claudel, "In Western drama, something happens; in Noh, someone appears." In these few words he deftly expressed the intrinsic nature of Noh. In Western drama, opposition or antagonism between individuals is expressed, whereas Noh is a poetic dance-monodrama completely dominated by the leading role, called the shite.

Phantasmal Noh - Otherworldly characters appearing. - Constructed of symbolic song and dance, and centered around the reminiscences of the shite, the scenes, as they pass from one image to another, demand a great deal of the imagination of the viewer.

"When a being not of this world appears, his entrance is accompanied by the music of the orchestra, called hayashi."

"Noh presents on the stage a mixture of the third and fourth dimensions which his something different and beyond either. The entrance music plays the part of a medium in the passage of the spirit from the four-dimensional to the three-dimensional world."

"The single curtain between the greenroom and the bridgelike passageway to the stage is the boundary between the world of spirits and the real world. Noh makes one feel that even this curtain does not exist."

Zeami/Nakamura- paraphrased - the time when he is doing nothing is the spaces between these physical aspects of his acting. Even during periods of no outward physical movement, the heart and mind of the actor must be working at full capacity. This is "movement in stillness".

Speed - consider the speed as a part of the limitless universe, these things are taking place in ana extremely small corner of space. So we are running counter to the the modern civilization that is highly influence by speed.

The slow tempo of Noh does not go against the spirit of the times. The Noh drama partakes of and is part of eternal time and eternal space. The matters portrayed onthe stage are of the eternal world of nature. Viewed from the macrocosmic point of view, the infinitesimal creature called man, with his tenacious attachment to life, spends his days harming others of his kind in his endless search for momentary happiness. However, when considered microcosmically, this same phenomenon allows one to touch upon the very breath of the soul of man. Thus one's point of view determines whether one is bored or moved by a performance of Noh. one cannot hear the voice of the soul unless he sits quietly after the end of a play till the stage has once more returned to the world of eternal time and space.

Noh is often called a symbolic stage art. The symbolism which the actor weaves upon the stage is understood, interpreted, and given meaning to the audience. Noh becomes effective only when the audience and the actor become perfectly united. - demands that the performer and the audience become a single entity.

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