Yugen Renaissance

It is satisfying to reflect that, of the four main stage productions making up the 2010-11 Theatre of Yugen season, two are adaptations of Renaissance drama.  Because this season has felt, in many ways, like a Renaissance of the Theatre of Yugen, under now sole Artistic Director Jubilith Moore and new Managing Director David Himmelreich.  In a year when virtually all arts organizations have faced unparalleled financial challenges, we have not only mounted four shows but have also refinished our precious floor and are about to celebrate the “graduation” of a promising class of apprentices from a rigorous program of training in Noh and Kyogen theatrical disciplines.  And we have refocused on the traditional yugen aesthetic, in which the audience, instead of being jarred by shocking images or caustic dialog, is stirred by a sense of mystery, of truth strongly suggested but only partially revealed, like a full moon glowing through the mist or the shrill cry of a flute in the distance.

Sheila with Ishida-sensei (2009) photo: Aquino

The season opened with Getting to Noh Yugen, presented as part of the Theater Communications Group’s Free Night of Theater.  This show introduced, to a largely new audience, not only Noh and Kyogen performance styles but also the lifelong training practices associated with these disciplines.    Yuriko Doi, founder of the Theatre of Yugen, provided an affecting voiceover, while ensemble member Sheila Berotti was alternately charming and earnest in her role as a student.

Lluis Vals

Lluis Vals photo: Doug Slater

In October we offered a double bill under the rubric Sorya! Possessed by a Fox, consisting of one traditional Kyogen comedy, Owl Mountain Priest, and a Kyogen-style adaptation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone, or The Fox by senior ensemble member Lluis Vals.  Then in December and early January, Sheila Berotti made her directorial debut with Mr. Yoowho’s Holiday, a fusion of Noh, Kyogen, and European clowning co-produced with the internationally known clown, Moshe Cohen.  And now we look forward to Cordelia, which will allow Director Jubilith Moore to draw on her experience as a practitioner of Noh and Kyogen and as a founding member of Woman’s Will, the Bay Area’s all female Shakespeare Company.

Jubilith in Renaissance Garb photo: Alice Shaw

Recent scholarly trends aside, most of us learned in high school that the dominant cultural trend in the Renaissance was the recovery and reinterpretation of classical forms in light of newer discoveries.  The Theatre of Yugen is similarly committed to preserving a highly valued legacy while allowing new work to be driven by our own inspirations and the urgent claims of a diverse and growing community.

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