Noh Drama/ Kyogen Comedy

What did I just see?

Noh Drama noh

The five acts of The Lily's Revenge are based on the structure of Noh Drama, a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing both the male and female roles. A Noh performance often lasts all day and consists of five Noh plays interspersed with shorter, humorous kyōgen pieces. Sound familiar?!

The five Noh plays that correlate to the five acts of The Lily's Revenge are often categorized by content. See if you can spot the similarities of Noh structure and Taylor's contemporary interpretation:

  1. Kami mono (神物) or waki nō (脇能) typically feature the shite (primary actor) in the role of a human in the first act and a deity in the second and tell the mythic story of a shrine or praise a particular spirit.
  2. Shura mono (修羅物) or ashura nō (阿修羅能, warrior plays) have the shite often appearing as a ghost in the first act and a warrior in full battle regalia in the second, re-enacting the scene of his death.
  3. Katsura mono (鬘物, wig plays) or onna mono (女物, woman plays) depict the shite in a female role and feature some of the most refined songs and dances in all of Noh.
  4. There are about 94 "miscellaneous" plays, including kyōran mono (狂乱物) or madness plays, onryō mono (怨霊物) or vengeful ghost plays, and genzai mono (現在物), plays which depict the present time, and which do not fit into the other categories.
  5. Kiri nō (切り能, final plays) or oni mono (鬼物, demon plays) usually feature the shite in the role of monsters, goblins, or demons, and are often selected for their bright colors and fast-paced, tense finale movements.

Costumes noh1 noh2

The garb worn by actors is typically adorned quite richly and steeped in symbolic meaning for the type of role (e.g. thunder gods will have hexagons on their clothes while serpents have triangles to convey scales). Costumes for the shite in particular are extravagant, shimmering silk brocades, but are progressively less sumptuous for the tsure, the wakizure, and the aikyōgen.

What am I doing in this stairwell?

Kyogen Comedy kyogen kyogen1

Kyōgen (狂言?, literally "mad words" or "wild speech") is a form of traditional Japanese theater. It developed alongside noh, was performed along with noh as an intermission of sorts between noh acts, and retains close links to noh in the modern day; therefore, it is sometimes designated noh-kyōgen. However, its content is not at all similar to the formal, symbolic, and solemn noh theater; kyōgen is a comical form, and its primary goal is to make its audience laugh.

Kyōgen plays are invariably brief, and often contain only two or three roles, which are often stock characters.

Movements and dialogue in kyōgen are typically very exaggerated, making the action of the play easy to understand. Elements of slapstick or satire are present in most kyōgen plays. Some plays are parodies of actual Buddhist or Shinto religious rituals; others are shorter, more lively, simplified versions of noh plays, many of which are derived from folktales.

Kyōgen is performed to the accompaniment of music, especially the flute, drums, and gong. However, the emphasis of kyōgen is on dialogue and action, rather than on music or dance.

Actors in kyōgen, unlike those in noh, typically do not wear masks, unless the role is that of an animal (such as a tanuki or kitsune), or that of a god. Consequently, the masks of kyōgen are less numerous in variety than noh masks. Both masks and costumes are simpler than those characteristic of noh. Few props are used, and minimal or no stage sets.

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