Nō and Kyōgen in the Contemporary World
How do classical, highly codified theater arts retain the interest of today's audiences and how do they grow and respond to their changing circumstances? The eight essay presented here investigate these questions, examining the contemporary significance of the "classic" no and kyogen theater to Japan and the West. They explore the theatrical experience from many perspectives - those of theater, music, dance, art, literature, linguistics, philosophy, religion, history, and sociology. This volume marks the first time the contemporary position of classic Japanese theater has been so broadly investigated. The first group of essays addresses the values that serious dance-drama no and lively kyogen comedy hold for contemporary audiences around the world. Richard Emmert locates a definition of "no-ness" in the physical qualities of the actor's performance - qualities that facilitate artistic transmission and hence preservation. Arthur H. Thornhill III focuses on yugen as an aesthetic idea. Royall Tyler examines the plays as expressions of religious beliefs and religious points of view and suggests that, important as religious content is to the plays, it is not necessary to understand Buddhist doctrine to respond. The adaptation of the theater arts in Japan and the West is discussed in the second group of essays. Nagao Kazuo interprets the long history of no as a series of "misunderstandings" or "misconceptions" (gokai) whereby performers attempted to recover an unknown (and unknowable) past. Tom Hare's essay takes up Zeami's understanding of the process of artistic transmission. Domoto Masaki suggests that no was drastically altered when it changed from a dialogue drama to a music-dance drama early in its development. Essays and interviews in the final group draw on contributors' personal experiences to describe a wide range of recent interactions between no and kyogen and Western theater. Kyogen master artist Nomura Mansaku, who was interviewed toward the end of a year-long period of teaching at the University of Hawai'i, comments on the aims and process of teaching American students to perform kyogen at the University of Washington, at the University of Hawai'i, and at his studio in Tokyo. No master artist Nomura Shiro, who also taught at Hawai'i, discusses the qualities of no he tried to convey in his teaching. J. Thomas Rimer's essay analyzes the responses by American audiences to Japanese theater tours and to American-Japanese fusion productions. Jonah Salz addresses the case of foreigners studying no or kyogen, likening it to second-language acquisition, a gradual building up of competence through continued practice and training.
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