Noh actors to perform, teach ancient theater art

Two renowned actors of Japanese Noh theater will perform, teach and demonstrate the elements of this 600-year-old theatrical form during a week-long residency at UB Feb. 17-23.

The series of events, sponsored by the Asian Studies Program, Department of Theatre and Dance, Center for the Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences, will feature Hatta Tatsuya of Tokyo and Fukano Shinjiro of Kyoto, both of the Kanze School of Noh.

Tatsuya Tatsuya, an actor of the Umewaka branch of the Kanze School, performed his first leading role in "Yoshino Tennin" in 1989. He has performed in distinguished festivals in Japan, as well as in Canada, Europe, Russia, Hong Kong and the United States. Tatsuya formally was recognized by the Kanze School as an independent actor in 1994.

Shinjiro made his Noh debut in 1958 and since has appeared in such Noh classics as "Okina," "Dojoji" and "Kinuta." A student of the Urata family of the Kanze School, Shinjiro was named to the prestigious Society of the Art of Noh in 1995.

Noh, which translates to "talent" or "skill," is a form of musical dance-drama that originated in the 14th century. It is Japan's oldest existing professional theater and one of the oldest living theatrical traditions in the world.

The Noh form differs from drama familiar in the West as the stage is mostly undecorated and the plays are performed by a leading character (shite), who is usually masked, and a supporting actor (waki).

The form features monologues and solo dances, and female roles are portrayed by male actors wearing masks. The actors share the stage with drummers and flutists and a chorus of six to eight chanters.

The language is poetic and costumes are colorful and heavy. Movement is deliberate and the performance seems like a solemn observance as the symbolism of the drama is rooted in Zen Buddhism. Noh actors tell classic stories through their subtle appearance, gesture and inflection.

Highlights during the week will include a series of master classes led by the actors to teach select students in the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Asian Studies Program the movements, sounds and narratives of Noh. The actors also will lead a public performance workshop, for high-school teachers and students on Feb. 20. The workshop is free and open to the public, but registration is limited.

In conjunction with the actors' visit, the Department of Comparative Literature will host a symposium to explore the genre of Noh in its local and global setting. Papers will be presented addressing Tokugawa Noh, Showa, the history of "high" drama and Noh in the literary lives of Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats.

On Feb. 23, UB will feature a traditional Noh performance and demonstration of Noh robing by actors Tatsuya and Shinjiro, assisted by UB theatre-and-dance students. The play, "Hagoromo," or "The Feather Robe," is based on a classic Japanese legend. Tickets for "Hagoromo" are $5 for students and $10 for the public and are available at the Center for the Arts Box Office from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and at all TicketMaster locations.

All events associated with the Japanese actors' visit will be held on the North Campus.

The schedule:
- Feb. 17: Welcome reception for the actors, 4:30 p.m., Center for the Arts.
- Feb. 17-19: Series of master classes for select UB students; for more information, call 645-6898.
- Feb. 19: Asia at Noon Brown Bag Series, discussion with actors Tatsuya and Shinjiro on "The State of Classical Stage Arts in Japan," noon, 280 Park Hall, free and open to the public.
- Feb. 20: Public performance workshop, 10 a.m. to noon, Center for the Arts Drama Theatre; to register, call 645-6933.
- Feb. 21: Symposium, "The Politics of Noh's Restaging," 3 p.m., 640 Clemens Hall; for more information, call 645-2066.
- Feb. 23: Noh performance "Hagoromo" and demonstration of Noh robing, 8 p.m., Center for the Arts Drama Theatre; for ticket information, call 645-ARTS. To charge by phone, call TicketMaster at 852-5000.

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