Pine Barrens (Pt. I)

(Editor’s note: below is the opening passage of “Pine Barrens,” an English-language shinsaku noh by playwright Greg Giovanni. The play premiered in September, 2006 at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The play has a formal structure, and the dan generally conform to classical noh. The story recounts the origins of the mythological “Jersey Devil.“)

Pine Barrens

A Noh Play by Greg Giovanni
Music and Direction- Richard Emmert

SHITE                        A Child
NOCHISHITE          The Jersey Devil

WAKI                       A Wiccan Priest
WAKITSURE         A Wiccan Priest
AI KYOGEN           THREE Mosquitoes

A burial mound is set onstage.
Shidai Music
WAKI and WAKITSURE entrance

Moon and sun together, sharing the same sky.
Moon and sun together, sharing the same sky.
Hanging both over this darkening earth.


We are white witches who practice earth magic. Using ancient formulas, we commune with the spirits of this tormented world.  Recently, one of our coven disappeared while practicing our sacred art.  Fearing what may have happened, we now set out to find our sister.
Is everything made ready?

We are ready to depart.

We leave our homes and travel to the sea.

Along the sandy coastline, traveling towards dusk.

Along the sandy coastline, traveling towards dusk.

Passing Barnegat Bay where families hunt for crab.
Beyond Little Egg Harbor, we come upon Great Bay
Where salt water rushes into the Mullica,
The backwards running river climbing inland.
Barren pine-land spreading from Leeds Point inward.
The dark swamp’s green mouth reeking of cedar and decay.
Trudging miles inside New Jersey’s desolate lands
Mosquitoes and loose footing make the going slow.

Miles of sand, salt-tinged swamp, tangled arms of pine,
Each mile no different from the next mile and the next mile beyond.
Shadows black against a floor of creeping vines,
The sun’s last light flickers below ragged limbs.
Dark among the lonely pines deeper still the night.
Dark among the lonely pines deeper the night.

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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