“Train, train, train,” says Yugen founder and teacher Yuriko Doi in a voiceover that occurs multiple times in Getting to Noh Yugen, the production with which we began our 2010-11 season. Among the themes of that show was that a Western practitioner of Noh has the triple identity of a teacher, a student, and an outsider. Indeed, all members of the Yugen ensemble—even the celebrated Yuriko Doi, who is Japanese by birth and education—continue to train, not only with masters with whom they have studied for years, but also occasionally with others who come to the United States under organizational sponsorships or under the auspices of the Noh Training Project, which occurs in Bloomsburg Pennsylvania each summer.
There are five schools of Noh for shite actors: the Kanze, Hosho, Komparu, Kongoh, and Kita schools. They share significant similarities in repertoire and style but are also characterized by certain differences. The Kanze school dates from the fourteenth century; it is arguably the most prestigious and is the one in which Yuriko Doi herself trained. The Kita school is the most recent of the five schools, dating from the seventeenth century, and characterized by “spirited warrior-like style and an initiative unique to new schools of Noh which has allowed it to create many modern Noh plays since the Meiji era” (http://db2.the-noh.com/edic/2010/05/kita_school.html). Jubilith Moore trains mainly in the Kita school, and last summer she received a grant to study with Kinue Oshima, the one professional female performer in that school. With Oshima-sensei, Jubilith studied the play Toru, in which the shite is an elegant lord, in preparation for the Cordelia project, in which the shite is a princess but must also assume the stereotypically male role of a warrior.
More recently, in connection with the project, Jubilith traveled to Michigan for a week of intensive work with David Crandall, who both studied and performed as a professional Noh actor with the Hosho school, noted for the complexity of its vocal styling. Jubilith was especially anxious to consult with David on how to imbue the more Western music of Cordelia with the flavor of Noh. David Crandall is one of the founding members of Theatre Nohgaku (www.theatrenohgaku.org), a troupe founded in 2000 by Richard Emmert and consisting of English speakers skilled in Noh performance. Both Jubilith Moore and Lluis Valls are occasional performers with Theatre Nohgaku.
There is a rite of passage in the career of every Noh actor when, for the first time, he directs himself as the shite. For Jubilith, Cordelia marks that moment, but in explicating her own vision for the project, she never fails to emphasize her gratitude and continued dependence on her teachers for advice and inspiration. The beginning of Getting to Noh Yugen was a moving depiction of that attitude: there was Jubilith, accomplished actress and teacher in her own right, hurriedly adjusting her practice kimono and hakama, starting her routine, stopping and starting over again, again and again, and even when alone on the dimly lit stage, hearing the steady voice of her teacher, Yuriko Doi, repeating:
“Train, train, train.”