When every road led onward

When we are young, the whole adventure of life is ahead.  At the dawn of creation, all history awaits.  Later, on both a personal and a collective level, existential fatigue takes hold.  Options seem foreclosed, or circumstances befuddle us into apathy. 

This season the Theatre of Yugen returns to the stories many of us heard or read as children, and the creation narratives of selected Eastern and Western cultures, in the hope of recovering forgotten possibilities.  Let us dip together into the wellspring of the past, seeking the refreshment we need to move with new vigor into the future.

Sorya!  October 2-24, 2011

The Theatre of Yugen 2011/2012 season begins with our annual Sorya! program, which includes one traditional kyogen farce and a work-in-progress showing of a new Theatre of Yugen work. 

Boshibari (Tied to a Pole)

Tied to a Pole

The Master needs to go to town on business and knows very well that, in his absence, his servants Taro and Jiro are likely to succumb to the temptation of the sake cask!  So he decides to tie them up.  He ties Taro’s wrists to a long pole and Jiro’s wrists behind his back, then leaves confidently on his errands.  

Adults invariably chuckle and children squeal with glee at the antics of Taro and Jiro, who soon realize that by working together, they can thwart their Master and get tipsy too.

Boshibari is a classic kyogen farce, performed in English.  

A Minor Miracle

Greg Giovanni in Recital

Our work-in-progress production consists of two plays from Greg Giovanni’s A Minor Cycle, a series of five plays modeled on a traditional Japanese Noh performance consisting of a God play, a Warrior play, a Woman play, a Mad Person play, and a Demon play.  The plays in A Minor Cycle are adaptations of classic folk narratives or children’s literature.  Each will be performed in a different traditional Japanese theatrical mode:

  • The God play, based on an episode from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, will be performed in the style of Japanese kyogen, or physical comedy.
  • The Warrior play, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier, will be performed in the style of Japanese bunraku puppetry.
  • The Woman play, based on the traditional ballad She Moved Through the Fair, will be performed in the hieratic noh style.
  • The Mad Person play, based on a selection from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, will be performed in the flamboyant kabuki style.
  • The Demon play, based on the legend of St. George and the Dragon, will be performed in a fusion of styles.

A Minor Miracle Part 1 will include two of the five plays of A Minor Cycle:  the God play based on the Chronicles of Narnia and the Woman play, the exquisite St. Matthews FairA Minor Miracle Part 2 will take place in the spring; the plays to be presented then are still to be announced.

The Dwarfs Are for the Dwarfs

The Last Battle, by CS Lewis (1956)Narnia is in a state of confusion and war.  Duped into accepting an impostor—a donkey in lion’s skin—as their lion-god Aslan, the Narnians have cut down their trees, depleted their wealth, and sunk into corruption.  The dwarves, in dismay at having been deceived by a false prophet, decide they will no longer take sides in the battle.  Why try to fight for right, when it can turn out to be wrong after all?  “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs,” they declare, and retreat into a barn.  There Lucy finds them, Lucy Queen of a Narnia in which the dwarves no longer believe.  Will her optimism restore their faith? 

The Dwarfs Are for the Dwarfs is the first play of Greg Giovanni’s A Minor Cycle and will be performed in the comical kyogen style.  Entertaining for children and thought-provoking for adults, it is based on an episode from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia but is accessible even to those unfamiliar with that series.

St. Matthews Fair

Rosetti, Salutation of Beatrice

“She Moved Through the Fair” is one of the best known traditional Irish ballads, frequently performed and recorded by dozens of artists since its first publication in 1909.  A man recalls the memory of his beloved moving through the color and bustle of a country fair after accepting his proposal of marriage. Since that moment of promise, he has seen her only in his dreams.  Around this haunting song Greg Giovanni has woven the story of St Matthews Fair, a stunning evocation of youthful romance and the defining power of loss. 

St Matthews Fair is the third play of A Minor Cycle, to be performed in the elegant noh style with original music by James Ferner.

Mr. YooWho and the Treasure of the Himawari Shrine, December 1-18, 2011

Moshe Cohen (photo Peter Kuku Cunningham)

Mr. YooWho is back just before the holidays, and this time his travels lead him to encounter Taro-kaja of kyogen fame.   Humor, poetry, Yiddish absurdism, European clowning, and Japanese kyogen intermingle as our heroes seek enlightenment, all the while lightening our hearts with laughter. 

Featuring our friend Moshe Cohen as the incomparable Mr. YooWho, this show is suitable even for small children. 

Mystical Abyss, May 17-20, 2012

Written by San Francisco playwright John O’Keefe, directed by Theatre of Yugen founder Yuriko Doi, and inspired by similarities between Japanese and Iroquois creation myths, Mystical Abyss dramatizes the project of restoring balance between light and dark forces and posits the need for connection and understanding across cultures. 

The Goddess Amaterasu

This new work represents the collaboration of a multicultural team of artists, including several exciting Native American singers, dancers and visual artists with whom we have never worked before.  The production juxtaposes and fuses Japanese and Native American traditional techniques while also incorporating modern elements, such as avant-garde storytelling and CG animation.

The production premieres as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival.

Please join us as we travel back to the times when every road led onward.

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