Flowers in December: The Treasure of the Himawari Shrine

Mr. YooWho and his sunflower

The winter holidays are nearly upon us, and for the fourth year in a row, Mr. YooWho is packing his weathered valise for a trip to somewhere bright and warm.  This year he and his perennial sunflower companion will find themselves at the Himawari (sunflower) Shrine where, he has heard, a treasure is to be found.

What can it be?

Mr.  YooWho is not only a traveler but also a clown, and his valise is literally a bag of tricks.  The two shrine maidens, aka “Sunflower Sprouts,” pretend not to notice but ultimately cannot resist being distracted as Mr. YooWho juggles, balances towers of small objects on his head, performs sleight of hand, plays the ukulele and sings, produces clouds of confetti, and engages the assembled children–who have made their own annual holiday pilgrimage to the NOHspace–in the exploits of a tiny wind-up penguin.  Eager or unsuspecting audience members are called as assistants onto the stage, where Mr. YooWho delivers instructions either in gibberish or in French–also, fortunately, in gesture, for the benefit of volunteers not conversant in gibberish or French.  And the dark of December is brightened by delighted or occasionally embarrassed laughter.  

Sheila Devitt, Larissa Garcia, and Moshe Cohen (photo Charline Formenty)

As always, the role of Mr. YooWho is realized by local favorite and internationally beloved clown Moshe Cohen.  Theatre of Yugen artistic director Jubilith Moore plays the shrine goddess and comical caretaker, and Yugen apprentices Sheila Devitt and Larissa Garcia play (fittingly) two apprentices at the Himawari shrine.  This is Larissa Garcia’s mainstage debut with the Theatre of Yugen; Sheila Devitt made her debut earlier this season as the Master in the classic kyogen farce Boshibari.  Ensemble member Sheila Berotti directs what she describes as the fullest development yet of the idea Moshe Cohen and ensemble member Lluis Valls first entertained four years ago–the idea that, if laughter is a universal language, practitioners of Japanese kyogen and European clowning should be able to evoke it in a felicitous collaboration on our stage.

For more information about the show, including a video snippet from last year’s Mr. YooWho production and a whimsical interview with Moshe Cohen, see the Mr. YooWho page on the Theatre of Yugen website at www.theatreofyugen.org.

To learn about the many hats Moshe Cohen has worn, not only on his head but throughout his travels as an artist and a human being, see his professional website at www.yoowho.org and explore his “sacred mischief” blog at www.yoowho.wordpress.com, where the verbiage is neither in gibberish nor in French.

And to read about the use of sunflowers in Japan to absorb radiation from the soil in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, see this article from the Reuters news service:      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/19/us-japan-disaster-sunflowers-idUSTRE77I0PG20110819

We hope to see you at the show.

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