The theatre forms of Noh and Kyogen are still popular
today, six hundred years after their birth, not only because
of the universality of the themes of the plays, but because of
their sparse use of gesture and space. Kyogen is performed on
a simple, open stage with a polished wooden floor that enhances
the gliding motion of its footwork. Tall pillars, often supporting
a pagoda style roof, mark each corner of the stage. At the back
of the stage is a pine-tree (outdoors) or a painting of a pine-tree
that represents long life and good fortune. It is the only "set" used
in Kyogen performance.
Kyogen movement is highly stylized and each movement is choreographed.
Each posture, every walk and each piece of business is defined.
the literal translation for Kyogen is "crazy words," and the
accompanying dialogue is simple, direct and comically exaggerated.
training begins at the age of three or four in "families" of
actors who have generations of experience. The child is trained,
one-on-one, by the grandfather in short dances and songs, and
without a script. The child mimics everything the grandfather
does. Although he may appear very briefly onstage as a child,
it is more likely that his acting career begins between eighteen
or twenty. Even then he will remain under the eyes of senior
family members until the age of forty when it is considered
that he is mature enough in the tradition to occasionally depart
from the style with small innovations.
Kyogen appeared in the period of the Northern and Southern
Courts, but came to the fore with the rise of the commoner
classes. Kyogen is the opposite of elite Noh in that it is
a robust comic genre. It has the role of a counterpoint facing
the tragic and profound tension of Noh. Full of satire in the
manner of Commedia dell'Arte, Kyogen goes for improvisation
and laughs; it regarded as the ancestor of the modern Japanese
2009 Performance Information
Master storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki weaves together her captivating narration with Japanese Noh and Kyogen dance forms, to tell the Japanese folktale of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Accompanied by musician Mark Izu, this story highlights the importance of friendship and how dance and music can bring light in times of darkness.
Like Me 2002: Face to Face!, Ellen
Brooks performed the character of Kazumoh or "Ka" the
Mosquito, from the Kyogen play, "Sumo Wrestling with a Mosquito." Ka
always performs in mask and sometimes adds a foot long stinger
when he is "vexing" his opponents. It is said that he is
spirit of a mosquito from mount Moriyama in Goshu province
the mosquitoes grow to be as large as people.
The Ka mask
is carved of wood by highly trained artists,
and tied (firmly)
around the head with cord. The performer
can actually only see out
of the nostrils. The choreography
is carefully planned to avoid the
edge of the stage. The costume
consists of a Japanese kimono in a
traditional small plaid
(to denote the character's station), an
(a legging pant), a traveling coat
called a misogoromo and,
of course, a koshi-obi (a belt worn around
the hips) and yellow
tabi, (socks that separate the big toe from
the other toes).