Friday, October 3, 2014

The Beauty of Noh: Tomoe + Yoshinaka at ACT Theatre

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the opening night performance of Beauty of Noh: Tomoe + Yoshinaka.  Renowned Noh actor Munenori Takeda along with the Takeda Noh Troupe headlined this special performance that ran from September 26th through 28th at ACT Theatre in Seattle.

The first act was Tomoe, a famous Noh play in which Munenori evoked both the sadness of a lost love and the energy of a warrior in battle.

[Photos: Display of Tomoe as she appears in the finale.]

The Story: 

While traveling to the Capitol for the first time, a priest of Kiso stops to rest at Awazu Plain.  Soon, the ghost of woman warrior Tomoe Gozen appears to tell her tale.  As an attendant to Minamoto no Yoshinaka, she fought beside him at the Battle of Awazu.  Yoshinaka had fought well, but the tide had turned against him and he was dealt a killing blow when his horse became bogged down.  Tomoe describes how she put him on another horse and took him away to hide in a pine grove.  She offered to take her own life with him as would traditionally have been her right as his vassal.  However, he denied her this because she was a woman, and insisted that she flee to Kiso.  Tomoe could not refuse his final command or she would risk eternal punishment.   

After fighting her way free of the Battle, Tomoe disguised herself and escaped.  She went on to live a full life, but could never let go of her bitterness over the death of Yoshinaka.  Thus, her ghost lingers at Awazu Plain.  

Here you can read a detailed description of the full Noh play, Tomoe.

[Photo:  The subtitle screen between acts reads, "The Noh Stage is Sacred.  Please do not step on the stage."]

The second act was Yoshinaka, a modern opera performed by the Fisher Ensemble with Munenori Takeda, written by Garrett Fisher and based on the story of Tomoe

[Photo:  The stage is set for the second act.]

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