Malevolent Spirit Bites the Dust in University at Buffalo Production of Noh Drama, "Aoi no Ue"

Japanese actors also offer noh master class, public workshop, Irish Classical Theater performance

Release Date: January 14, 2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo will present a performance of "Aoi no Ue," a classic work by 15th-century Japanese noh dramatist Zeami Motokiyo on Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. in the Drama Theatre, Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

Tickets for the performance are available from the Center for the Arts Box Office -- 645-ARTS -- at $15 (general public) and $6 (students).

The play, based on events in the 11th-century novel "The Tale of Genji," by Murasaki Shikibu, will feature Hatta Tatsuya, Fukano Shinjiro and Yasuda Noboru, three accomplished noh performers from Japan's Kanze School of Acting. The actors will be joined by students in the UB Department of Theatre and Dance who will study with them in a master class during the week of Jan. 26-31. Hatta and Fukano performed "Hagoromo," another noh classic by Zeami, to a rapt audience at UB in 1999.

At 7 p.m. on Feb. 1, prior to the performance, a Japanese robing demonstration will be narrated by Takako Michi, M.A. '73, of Williamsville, in the Center for the Arts' Screening Room (112). Michi is a UB alumna and member of the Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister City Committee, with a long record of coordinating cultural and artistic projects between the U.S. and Japan. The demonstration will be free and open to the public.

The UB performance, master class and demonstration are three events in a university-community noh residency sponsored by several UB departments and programs and Western New York entities. The other public events are:

Public performance workshop, Jan. 31, 10 a.m. to noon: An "active learning experience" about noh theater will be offered by the actors through a public performance workshop in the Drama Theatre in the Center for the Arts. Those interested in attending can pre-register through Buffalo/Niagara WorldConnect, 834-2150, or the UB Department of Theater and Dance, 645-6898, ext. 1332 or 1333.

Second public performance of "Aoi no Ue," Feb. 2, 8 p.m.: The Irish Classical Theater, 625 Main Street, Buffalo. Tickets for that performance are $15. For information and reservations, call the ICT at 853-4282.

"Aoi no Ue" is established firmly in the classic repertoire of noh, a form of symbolic theater in which primary importance is attached to ritual and suggestion in a rarefied aesthetic atmosphere. The noh drama does not unfold scene by scene, but tells its story through a blend of words, music and dance, embellished with gorgeously colored costumes and suggestive mood masks. The "action," for lack of a better word, is slow-moving, deliberate and highly symbolic. Actors, props and backdrops are sparse and most sound is produced by a chorus, flutes and drums.

In this play, Lady Aoi, represented by a folded robe, lies near death, stricken with a mysterious illness by the malevolent spirit of the scorned, jealous Lady Rokujo. The play's most memorable scene involves an exorcism performed by a chanting ascetic whose incantations stay the evil spirit of Rokujo. Rokujo repeatedly withdraws, coils and strikes until in the end her heart softens and she is guided to salvation and Buddhahood.

In addition to being a playwright, Zeami Motokiyo (zay-ah'-me moh-toh-kee'-yo) was an actor and drama theorist from a theatrical family. At age 11, he attracted the attention of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who became his first patron. Zeami wrote works of astonishing poetic resonance, incorporating myth, legend and literary allusion into densely interwoven imagery. As drama critic, he produced practical instruction for actors and highly theoretical work that elevated the art of noh theater to the level of court poetry and linked verse.

The noh residency and performances are co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Asian Studies program, the Center for the Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Butler Chair of English, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of Linguistics and the Office of International Education, all at UB; the Irish Classical Theater; Buffalo/Niagara WorldConnect; Fujisawa Healthcare; the East Asian Studies Program of Cornell University, and friends of the Noh Residency. For information, call UB's Asian Studies program at 645-3474.Additional information on the history, nature, staging, characters, masks, costumes, instrumentalists and chorus associated with noh drama can be found at

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