P AI N TI N G T H E T H E ATR E : N ÅŒ P I C T U R E S AT T H E A G N S W – TAASA Review June 2014


This article was originally found in the June 2014 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 23, Issue 2, Page 4).

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Khanh Trinh N ō (literally ‘skill’ or ‘talent’, also spelled ‘noh’), Japan’s oldest continuous performing art tradition, can best be described as a ‘total stage art’ that involves vocal and instrument music, dance elements, acting techniques, architecture and applied arts.

The roots of nō trace back to 8th century court entertainments, ritual dances offered in agricultural festivals as well as various forms of skits and acrobatic acts presented by travelling troupes of performers at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines on auspicious occasions. ‘Inuyamabushi’ from the album Illustrations of old nō and kyōgen, early Edo period, 17th century, ink and colour on paper, 44.4 x 59.5 cm.

National Noh Theatre In the 14th century, Kan’ami Kiyotsugu (1333–84) and his son, the celebrated actor, playwright and theoretician Zeami Motokiyo (c1363-c1443) consolidated these various popular entertainments to develop a highly sophisticated theatrical form that appealed to the social elite. Throughout its formative phase in the Muromachi period (1333-1573) and especially in the Edo period (1603-1868), the production and enjoyment of nō performances – which usually consisted of various dramatic nō plays interspersed with humoristic kyōgen interludes – was almost exclusively reserved for members of the ruling military aristocracy...