Outdoor stage, Fukuyama Japan.

Contributed by Richard Emmert.

On Saturday, the workshop moved here, to Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture. This is the home of the Oshima family and the Oshima Noh Theatre which is a privately owned family noh theatre. Most other such theatres are in the much larger cities of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, so in many ways it is rare that the Oshimas can maintain such a theatre here.

Theatre Nohgaku members got to know about the Oshimas first when I brought Oshima Kinue to Bloomsburg to teach at the Noh Training Project in 2006. Then in 2009, as a company, we became very close to them the Oshimas when we joined with them for our European tour of Pagoda. And of course last year we toured Pagoda with them again in Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing and Hong Kong. I think we can say that we have built up a good relationship with them which has made it easier for this workshop to happen.

Oshima Kinue being dressed by Osada-sensei.

I actually first came in contact with the Oshimas back in the late 1970s when I was studying with my first noh teach, Matsui Akira, and would occasionally be in performances of his in Wakayama. The father, Oshima Masanobu, would often be involved with those performances so I began to get to know him. I would also see him,  and occasionally the late grandfather Oshima Hisami, at Kita School performances in Tokyo. Oshima Hisami was particularly regarded with great esteem by performers in and close followers of the Kita School.

Oshima Masanobu.

In the mid-1980s, I came down to Fukuyama for the first time to see a performance by the Oshimas—a special “three-generation” performance in which grandfather Hisami, father Masanobu, and then 12-year old son, Teruhisa, all performed a full noh on one program. Also, roles were played by the three daughters, Kinue, Fumie, and Norie. Kinue is now the only fully recognized Kita School female professional but all three are active in one way or another with the Oshima Noh Theatre here in Fukuyama.

Saturday was a delightful day although the rainy season was in full gear. We had a short hour-long introduction to several basic aspects of noh costuming with Osada Takeshi, considered perhaps the most knowledgeable costumer among Kita School performers. Along with Kinue, Osada-sensei will be leading the workshop on Monday and Tuesday, and for the performances today, he will also be the main costumer.

Workshop participant Kristin Jackson being dressed by Osada-sensei.

Later we watched the moshiawase, the rehearsal for today’s performances. As a final rehearsal goes, it is often surprising to see that only a few of the main shite actors, who will take chorus, koken, and tsure roles as well as shite roles, are in attendance. That is to say, there are no waki actors, ai-kyogen actors, or hayashi musicians. All of those will only be here for the full performance.

Kinue will be performing the shite role in Aoinoue for the first time today. This particular piece involves some special manipulations of the costume and so back last fall when we had first discussed having the Costume Workshop at this time, she had mentioned that she would probably need to wear the costume for the moshiawase. Masanobu sensei who will be dancing Hyakuman today, did not wear the performance costume although Kinue did, but without the wig.

Osada-sensei with Oshima Kinue.

At the end of the first half of the play, the actor must pull the top part of the costume out—a karaori draped in tsubo-ori style meaning it is pulled up and tucked in around the waist. The actor has to slip their hands inside the sleeves of this outer karaori without taking the kitsuke, the main under kimono, a silver “haku” kimono, and then pull the outer garment over one’s head to hide the transformation about to take place.

Oshima Kinue rehearsing the second half of Aoinoue.

The other section where the manipulation of the costume is difficult is at the beginning of the second half. In Aoinoue, the first half shite doesn’t leave the stage but the mask is changed by the koken at the back of the stage as the play goes on. So when the shite comes back on in the second half, they must still have the outer costume over their head hiding the fact they’re wearing a hannya mask. This too is a bit difficult and at the end of the rehearsal, both Oshima Masanobu and Osada sensei had suggestions as to the angle and timing for dropping this outer garment.

I think the moshiawase was quite interesting for workshop participants to see, and that will be particular evident when they see the two full performances on Sunday afternoon.

Kokata watching the dressing. The girl on the right is Oshima Teruhisa’s daughter, who will perform in Hyakuman.


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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