Costume Workshop (Day One reflections)

Contributed by Richard Emmert.

Yesterday was the first day of the Costume Workshop we are holding here in Kyoto. It is being led by Monica Bethe who has been based here in the Kyoto area for over 40 years. Monica is certainly one of the most, if not the most knowledgeable non-Japanese person regarding noh. And she is particularly knowledgeable about noh costumes, particularly as to how they are made and what colors and combinations tend to be chosen for performances. And that is rather simply put but will have to do for now.

Monica Bethe addresses attendees at the
Theatre Nohgaku Costume Workshop, Kyoto 2012.

The idea for a costume workshop came from John Oglevee of Theatre Nohgaku, largely because we felt the need to learn the detailed process of putting on noh costumes. But we also knew how important it would be just to learn the background to the process and Monica and what she could offer the workshop came to mind very quickly. So what we are doing is putting together both three-days of lectures here in Kyoto which include visits to costume-makers, and then four days in Fukuyama where we will attend a moshiawase rehearsal and then the performances at the Oshima Nohgakudo on Saturday and Sunday (the 16th and 17th) and then have two days of learning how to put on costumes on Monday and Tuesday (the 18th and 19th). The latter will be led by Osada Takeshi, a Kita school professional performer and costume specialist, as well as Oshima Kinue of the Oshima family and who has performed with Theatre Nohgaku when we toured Pagoda in 2009 and again last year.

Monica Bethe demonstrates the operation of the
demonstration loom she constructed.

All in all, after just one day I already feel strongly that this is an amazing workshop just as much as I thought it would be. Monica is a great teacher, which is probably in her genes being the daughter of the late Nobel prize winner Hans Bethe. She is inventive, extremely knowledgeable and passionate. This is apparently the first time she has been able to teach something like this although she has written about related topics for many years.

Monica Bethe at the Sasaki costume workshop.

There is no question in my mind that Theatre Nohgaku will have to do this again. And by the way, this is not just for TN members. We have several others who are also participating. I think we have six members and four non-members. Those who missed it last time really should start saving up now. Or maybe we should arrange a similar workshop for the States?

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About Theatre Nohgaku

Noh, one of the oldest continuing stage arts, combines highly stylized dance, chant, music, mask and costume with intense inner concentration and physical discipline, creating a uniquely powerful theatrical experience. Theatre Nohgaku’s mission is to share noh’s beauty and power with English speaking audiences and performers. We have found that this traditional form retains its dramatic effectiveness in languages other than Japanese. We believe noh techniques hold a powerful means of expression in the context of contemporary English language theatre.
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