Asleep in Jizo House

Contributed by David Crandall
Photographs by Kevin Salfen

[Editor’s note: in the below, Mr. Crandall discusses some of his experience while rehearsing for Sumida River, performed June 8, 2014, at the Zen Mountain Monastery.]


A bamboo grove grows in front of Jizo House, the dormitory where the TN men are housed at the monastery. In my role as the Boatman in Sumida River, I needed a boating pole, so I received permission to cull a slender bamboo stalk from the grove. Selecting one that was already dead and dry, it was an easy matter to cut it to size using a hacksaw kindly lent me by T—, one of the monastics. I very much like the idea of using a locally grown pole in our performance. It’s a slender but strong tie, a bond that was perhaps ordained in a previous life.

David Crandall

It’s natural for the mind to run to such philosophical thoughts here; the play we’re rehearsing, in which a congregation of well-wishers intone invocations to Amida Buddha on behalf of a young boy’s soul, is echoed in our two daily meditation sessions.

I confess, though, that I missed the first half of our first session. Sleeping blissfully, I somehow didn’t hear the signal bell that was meant to awaken me in time for the 5:25 start time. There I was, fast asleep, when a lovely apparition appeared in my bedroom, the head monitor Z— in her flowing robes, gently but firmly reminding me that it was time to join the others. Groggy and disoriented, I thought perhaps my time had come and she had materialized to lead me to the Western Paradise. But no, I went instead to the meditation hall and managed to slip into the second half of the session.

Determined not to repeat the mistake, I set two alarm clocks this morning, and wound up not sleeping much at all, as if I were nervously awaiting an early morning flight. I heard the bell clearly (before the clocks kicked in), and was at the hall well ahead of schedule. But I must say that yesterday was a much more memorable experience. Sometimes, it pays to fail.



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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