Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Embroidered robe helps bridge traditions

National Guoguang Opera Company and the Yokohama Noh Theatre were unable to completely fuse their very different theatrical forms, but three years of collaboration has resulted in a production that fully highlights the skills of the performers

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Part two is a “Shiguakumi,” a Nihonbuyu or traditional Japanese dance, based on the Noh play Breeze Through The Pines, featuring musicians and artists from Yokohama, with Mozibei providing the traditional joujuri narrative.

Breeze Through The Pines is a story about a disgraced official who takes up with two lower-class sisters, but when he is pardoned, he leaves them and never returns. A wandering monk later encounters the two women’s spirits, and one of them, dressed in the clothes of her lost lover, dances out her longing for him, before the sisters ask the monk to exorcise their spirits.

Part three is a new Kun play, The Dream of an Embroidered Robe, but performed in the Nihonbuyu style by Wen and Liu Chia-hou (劉珈后).

It takes a more realistic view of the love story between the scholar and the former prostitute, recognizing that it would have been very unlikely they would actually have been allowed to marry.

In this tale, the scholar takes up a new post and must leave his love behind. She accompanies him halfway on his journey before returning to Changan alone, but leaves him with her embroidered robe. Now old and dying, the scholar dreams of his long-ago love, with her robe embodying her spirit in his fantasy.

The Dream of an Embroidered Robe premiered at the Yokohama Noh Theatre, which has one of the oldest Noh stages in Japan, on June 9.

However, since the traditional Noh stage is completely different from the proscenium stages of the two theaters in Taiwan, in terms of layout, size and audience location, Wang has basically completely revamped the production.

I sat down with Wang Chia-ming and Wen last month after watching a rehearsal of the third act to ask about their experiences working on the show and the challenges it presented.

Working on the production turned into a dialogue of different theater traditions, and the physical limitations — a single bridge entrance and a roofed stage — and restrictions about what could be done on a Noh stage affected the way the script was written, Wang said.

There are three real “nos” in Noh: performers must wear socks, no shoes are allowed; the lighting must be traditional and electronic amplification of voices is not allowed, he said, heaving a big sigh when he mentioned the lighting.

The script they came up with for the third section is appropriate for a performance in Noh tradition, featuring a protagonist as the main performer with the other performer representing a character from the spirit world, Wang said.

They also found a way to keep the idea of the robe as the central image and as a protagonist, as is the tradition in Noh, he added.

The story is about the love between a man and a woman who are doomed never to be together, with the woman becoming the spirit of the robe.

In Taichung and Taipei, they will be able to use more of the stage than in Yokohama, and the stage will have three entrances, Wang said, adding that he is using lighting effects in for the new portion to help create the structure of the story.

Wang Tien-hung (王天宏) was tapped for the lighting.

As was done in Yokohama, the Japanese musicians will be seated in a row along the back of the stage, while the Chinese opera orchestra will be behind a screen to the right of the stage, Wang Chia-ming said.

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