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The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre + Dance and Kennedy Theatre are proud to present Remotely Kyōgen: Comedy Under the (virtual) Stars, a collection of six short plays that range from traditional to fantastical. Developed and directed by UHM Professor of Theatre Julie A. Iezzi along with a student collective under the direction and virtual training of Master Kyōgen Advisor SHIGEYAMA Sennojō III. Online streaming of performances will take place April 23, 24, 30, and May 1 at 7:30 p.m., and May 2 at 2:00 p.m. Special Streaming Ticket prices range from $5-$15.
Kyōgen is perhaps the least familiar Japanese theatre form to Western audiences. Finding roots in the 13th century, kyōgen was largely used as a comedic entertainment for commoners at festivals and used satire to poke fun at those in power—which is perhaps why this comic form continues to thrive into the 21st century.
A master artist in residence for the preceding three mainstage season kyōgen productions at Kennedy Theatre (2002, 2007, 2017), Master Kyōgen Advisor SHIGEYAMA Sennojō III, once again shares his life-long training in kyōgen and years of experience writing and producing new plays, this time in the virtual rehearsal room with students in preparation for this performance. Born into the Kyoto-based SHIGEYAMA Sengorō family of the Ōkura School of kyōgen, he studied under his grandfather, Sennojō II, and later his father, Akira. Like Sennojō II, who was among the first kyōgen actors in the post WWII era to collaborate with contemporary artists and work in cross-genre performances, Sennojō III follows in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, expanding the boundaries of kyōgen—even into the digital realm. While the initial hope was for this Kennedy Theatre production to perform to live audiences outdoors and under the stars, preparation for this digital presentation featured weekly Sunday rehearsals using Zoom with Sennojō III starting at 7:00 a.m. Japan time. His guidance, feedback and movement instruction made this remote effort possible.
Coincidentally, first year PhD candidate and Assistant Director Jane Traynor had previously traveled to Japan and trained under Sennojō III in person. Traynor is responsible for translating Kaki Yamabushi into English, adapting and relocating it to Kaua`i for a new version called Mango Yamabushi. Traynor also adapted the final piece in the production, MushZooms 2.0 which was inspired by the kyōgen play Kusabira.
Remotely Kyōgen: Comedy Under the (virtual) Stars begins with pre-show behind-the-scenes reel highlighting the six-month remote development and training process, so patrons are encouraged to join the stream early if possible. The virtual production opens with a pre-recorded traditional performance of Tachiubai (Sword Stealing) featuring professional kyōgen performers of the Shigeyama line, on the Oe-Noh stage in Kyoto (in Japanese with English subtitles). Then tradition gives way to modern and whimsical innovation which was created collaboratively by the student collective and artistic team. The translated and adapted piece Mango Yamabushi, is next, followed by a solo piece entitled Great Great Grandmother Reitzel. Science fiction takes center stage with the premiere of the newly minted Earthbound. Iezzi explains that it “features the ‘master and two servants’ of many kyōgen plays, but sets them in a new environment—outer space.” The program continues with Mask Confusion, an original “kyōmedia” play, penned by Catherine Ann Restivo which brings the ubiquitous master/servant characters from kyōgen and Commedia del Arte together in Honolulu. The final piece in the program MushZooms 2.0, completely transforms the traditional kyōgen play Mushrooms, about a farmer fighting a mushroom invasion, to the now all too familiar world of Zoom. The program also features interludes highlighting art inspired by kyōgen, and a brief participatory kyōgen lesson.
MFA Scenic Design candidate Laura Nigon-Holmgren brings beauty and depth to the virtual stage with her original digital backgrounds. When asked about her design concept she noted, “the traditional painted pine background [found on noh and kyōgen stages] was the cornerstone visually for most of the pieces.” This concept was blended with inspiration from contemporary artist Yamamoto Tarō, whose art employs traditional Japanese styles of painting and adds a modern twist to them. Nigon-Holmgren continued, “stylistically the backgrounds are all illustrative to both pay homage to the traditional artwork along with adding a connective visual through-line throughout the program.” The color choices along with the golden look to the backgrounds are based on traditional Japanese folding screens. Nigon-Holmgren created all of the digital backgrounds through an extensive process starting with high resolution pictures capturing the texture and depth of the gold leaf, then adding hand drawn designs, colors, and details utilizing a number of digital programs, yielding final designs with complex and layered digital effects. Asked about designing for the digital stage Nigon-Holmgern shared, “The biggest change at this point is rethinking how you visually look at theatre … being able to add depth and movement. It’s just thinking about set design in a different way.”
Information about the show, a link to purchase tickets, and more can be found on the show webpage at http://manoa.hawaii.edu/liveonstage/kyogen2021. For ticketing questions please email the box office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 956-7655. An educational website about the production can be found at www.remotelykyogen.com.
Remotely Kyōgen: Comedy Under the (virtual) Stars
UHM Department of Theatre + Dance
April 23 – May 2, 2021
FRI/SAT at 7:30pm
SUN at 2pm
$10 Senior, Military, UH Faculty/Staff, Non-UHM Students
$5 Students with Valid UHM ID
Ticket prices include all service fees.
Tickets are available online at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/kennedytheatre.