The Theatre of Yugen was founded in 1978 by Yuriko Doi to bring classical Japanese theater to American audiences. Based on Japanese Noh drama and Kyogen comedy, the Yugen ensemble crafts highly stylized productions from dramatic and literary classics. Spark goes backstage for their adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Dating back to the 14th century, Noh is the oldest form of theater in Japan. It is highly stylized, nonrealistic and ritualized as a theatrical form, emphasizing stillness rather than action, symbolism and allusion rather than realism and representation. With minimal dialogue, a slow meditative pace and mannered movement, there is a stillness and grace to this dramatic form that can challenge American audiences, who bring different cultural expectations to the art of performance.
“The Old Man and the Sea” adapts well to the world of Noh. As a fusion piece, the production presents unhurried musical rhythms, chanting, controlled choreography, masks, shadows and puppetry. Noh works well with Hemingway’s simple tale, which is recounted sparingly in distilled prose and is rich in symbolism and allegory.
Using the theatrical elements and techniques of Noh theater, Jubilith Moore stylizes “The Old Man and the Sea.” Props such as puppetry, costumes and masks play an important part. The set is sparse and has pieces uniquely fashioned from glass, designed by Kana Tanaka.
More about the Theatre of Yugen
In 2001, Moore, Libby Zilber and Lluis Valls took over from Doi as co-artistic directors of Theatre of Yugen and have continued her mission. The Theatre of Yugen has presented visiting master Noh performers in the Bay Area, working in collaboration with Cal Performances, the Asian Art Museum, the Consul General of Japan and the Japan Society of Northern California. The Theatre of Yugen also provides ongoing training and education programs for K-12 and university students as well as adults.
Theatre of Yugen
Where: Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa St., San Francisco
Phone: (415) 621-7978