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Noh Theatre

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Title: History Of The Theatre Word Count: 1117 Tutor: Pat Thorns Abstract In an age of digital cinema, exquisite computer animation and giant talking robots, it is a small wonder that theatre has even survived this far. And yet it consistently receives high reviews, people still flock to the curtained stage in eager anticipation to see centuries-old stories performed before them. But is there a place in modern society for one of the most ancient, revered and deeply traditional forms of Japanese Theatre? This essay will look at the origins, content and possible modern connotations of Noh Theatre. Noh, meaning "talent" or "skill", began in the 14th Century in Japan. It is very much unlike western theatre in that the actors use expressive movements and physical appearance to imply the meaning of their story, rather than act it out. To the untrained eye, it would seem that not much actually happens in a Noh play, but well-informed observers of Noh theatre who are knowledgeable about the story's plot would appreciate the performance and the understated references to Japan's cultural history. ...read more.


and waki (subordinate). These are speciality roles and have their own acting "place" on the stage. The kyogen acting roles are also considered to be major, and one is usually involved in narrating a Noh play. The minor roles in Noh theatre consist of the attendant (tsure), the boy (kokata) and the walk-on (tomo)-though this last one is actually a non-speaking part. Like in Shakespearian times, Noh theatre consisted solely of male actors, and performed as female characters when it was necessary. The entire performance has very strict rules. Each segment has to be performed in a very precise and exact way, with each type of dialogue and song having their own particular name. Zeami Motokiyo, who is considered to be the most important playwright in Noh theatre and most of the plays performed today were written by him, practically created the fundamentals of Noh that have directed its actors for centuries. Each play has a detailed composition; from the way the dialogue is spoken to the dance of the performers. ...read more.


The hannya mask was used to represent a vengeful woman, so consumed with anger that she turns into a demon. Japanese artwork, hannya masks in particular, have become extremely popular amongst tattoo artists, some even specializing in Japanese design, "tattooing takes full advantage of these fanciful and engaging images, often using them in larger pieces of Japanese work or sometimes juxtaposing masks of good and evil characters. Often a Noh mask will also appear in isolation, as a work of art unto itself, not unlike the actual masks which are highly prized and very collectible". Noh is steeped in tradition, with its specific guidelines for performance and dedication of its performers. But it is also considered to be a beautiful and unique form of visual entertainment, perhaps calling on the audiences' own imagination to interpret what they see before them. Older than Shakespeare, Noh could have been a forgotten art form, but the very essence of what made it so popular amongst the social elite in the 14th century is the reason it has survived today, "not simply for its status as 'classic theatre' or because of innovations but as a perfected and refined contemporary stage art". ...read more.

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