I don’t know where I am now

Contributed by Rinde Eckert

[Editor’s note: Rinde Eckert is a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama and the Obie Award-winning creator of “And God Created Great Whales.” A writer and composer, he shares the below reflections about his experience with the Noh Training Project 2013.]

rinde_eckertI came here to see what a 650 year old art form could teach me.  No.  I came here to be humbled by the depth of this ancient practice. No.  I came here to be reminded of the sacred.  No.  I came here to simply be amazed.  No.  I came here to be inspired.  No.  I came without knowing precisely why I’d come.

All my evasions and judgments and descriptions become exposed as the inadequate postures they are as I try to perform these ancient steps, to move in this ancient way, to sing these ancient songs.  And, no, I’m not so much learning here as I am becoming, becoming more and less.   One puts on the mask and one understands.

There is less of me now than there was when I started two and a half weeks ago.  Certain things, it seems, have to drop away to get to what noh is.   At this juncture I know very little, and I’m grateful for the little I know.

We move as if carrying the weight of something grand, as if heaviness and lightness are just the sad preoccupations of … no.  We move as if the weight of our costume is nothing.  rinde_eckert_2No, as if in supporting the ancient mask we are the living ghost of a single place and all places, as if the word and the dance had always been there, is always there.

I am not light enough yet to carry this weight, but I see the light. No.  I sense the light.  No.  I don’t know where I am now, what noh is.  I have not learned the dance yet, don’t know it, can’t know it.  I’m too big, too old, too western, too weak, too distracted, too stiff, too heavy, too tall, still…still, I put on my white socks, raise my fan, and there I am, and not, and there noh is, and not.

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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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