JAPAN: Nature and Culture for the Future - Theatre

Icon of theatre

Stage photograph of kyogen
Photograph copyright © Fumio Fukuda

Japan's traditional performing arts of Noh and Kyogen developed together in the 14th century during the Muromachi period (1333 - 1573). Today, they are thought of together as the art of Nogaku, or as Noh & Kyogen.

Noh is a kind of symbolic drama colored with the graceful aesthetic effect of quiet elegance that is expressed through the word yugen ("elegant, refined, and elusive beauty"). Its subjects are taken from history or classical literature, and it is structured around song and dance. Its most obvious characteristic is that the main actor performs while wearing a mask of exceptional beauty. Its themes are more concerned with human destiny than with events, and it developed into a highly stylized and refined performing art that takes place upon a very simple stage. The play known as The Well-Curb is often used as typical of the vision-like Noh plays of its dramatic world. When audiences experience Noh, they are touched with a feeling different from that evoked by other theatrical forms.

Kyogen is a kind of spoken drama that is based upon laughter and comedy. In contrast to Noh, it uses the everyday life of the common people in feudal society or folktales as its subject, and realistically depicts a kind of "Everyman" figure. This dynamic art whose typical main character is a servant named Taro Kaja evokes a gentle and entertaining humor.

Noh and Kyogen have, from the very beginning, been performed upon the same stage. Both Noh, through its pursuit of a symbolic ideal beauty, and Kyogen, through its realistic expression of humor, portray the true essence of human nature, and have been passed down to us today in these mutually complementary roles.

The Shigeyama family, famous Kyogen players with a history of 400 years, performs “Sanbaso”, “The Persimmon Thief”, and “Mushrooms”. “Sanbaso” is the most sacred and celebratory of all plays in the Noh and Kyogen repertoire. “Sanbaso” dances in celebration of fertility and good harvests.

Description of Noh & Kyogen is taken from "NOH & KYOGEN", Japan Arts Conucil


Chicago, IL

Tuesday, March 23, 2010   7:00 pm   
Wednesday, March 24, 2010   7:00 pm


University of Chicago, International House Assembly Hall
1414 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637-2997


free (pre-registration suggested)


University of Chicago International House

Washington, DC

Friday, March 26, 2010   7:00 pm


The Studio Theatre, Washington, DC
1501 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005

Admission free (reservations required)
Reservations & Inquiries



Saturday, March 27, 2010   4:00 pm - 4:15pm


National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001


free (open to the public)


1-877-44BLOOM or E-mail

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