news | Tuesday March 30, 2010

Getting to Know Noh


Japanese Noh is well known for its traditional masks but beyond that how much do you know about Noh?

Noh, like opera, is a distinctive genre. According to Noh expert Richard Emmert, Noh is a highly stylized dance drama that mixes passages of dialogue with poetic song. In Noh, “…actions of the past are presented as completed and emphasis is focused on the moods that are created in the main actor as he or she recalls these incidents.” When people tell Emmert they have written a Noh play, they are often mistaken in thinking that that Noh is like a Shakespeare play.

In 2006 Pangaea Arts used Noh to communicate the aftermath of the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II. The Gull: The Steveston Noh Project, written by Daphne Marlatt and directed by Richard Emmert, follows two young Japanese Canadian brothers in 1950 as they return to the village of Steveston to fish. They lost their parents and their father’s fishing boat during the internment years. They are visited by the shite, a ghost and a gull who resembles their mother and warns them to “Go home,” back to Mio, Wakayama, Japan.

Although The Gull retains the traditional musical structure of a Noh play, it departs from classical Noh in its being set in the 1950s on the West Coast. For Daphne Marlatt, writing The Gull integrated her two loves of Steveston and Noh. Richard Emmert considers The Gull to be the first Canadian Noh play.

The Gull is now available in print for the first time. This bilingual edition (English and Japanese) features rich colour images from the Pangaea Arts production. Purchase your copy today.

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