Girl in the Grave Mound

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Kagan-Dubroff recently performed the kokata role in the English-language adaptation of Sumidagawa “Sumida River,” in South Texas. The kokata (子方) role in the play is a depiction of the Spirit of a Dead Boy. During almost all of the performance she is hidden from view of the audience within the tsukurimono (作り物, in this case; a grave mound.) During the South Texas 2015 performance tour, we asked her “Just what is it that you’re doing in there that whole time?” Below is her response. Ms. Kagan-Dubroff is 10 years old.]

Contributed by Miriam Kagan-Dubroff

When the little girl is sitting in the grave mound, what does she do? That is the question I know you’re asking and I’m here to answer it. I try to do all the things I can to amuse myself . The first thing I do is find a position in which I think I will be comfortable for _DSC0273most of the play. Then I try to amuse myself by shadow puppets and looking for shapes in the fabric covering the grave. Sometimes if I’m a bit sleepy , I close my eyes and listen to the Ji sing. [The “ji” is the chorus.]

Once I come out I see people starting to whisper to each other. I can’t help but wonder what they’re saying. I try so hard not to smile. I bet you’re wondering how I keep a straight face. I’ll admit, it isn’t easy. But the trick is to think of something scary or sad. I think of the most horrible nightmare I ever had. If that doesn’t work I think of my role in the play. I imagine I’m actually a dead boy that would never be able to live again. When I look at the mask Kinue [大島衣恵, Oshima Kinue, the shite actor] is wearing, I see the mother’s face and it looks so sad. That wipes the smile right off my face. I have performed this play once before at Zen Mountain Monastery and really enjoyed it. I’m so exited to be in Sumida River again.

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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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2 Responses to Girl in the Grave Mound

  1. Sonya Michel says:

    Thanks, Miriam, for your wonderful insights into what must be a very difficult role. You are obviously off to a wonderful career in theatre, following in your parents’ footsteps–and/or perhaps as a writer too! Congratulations….

    Aunt Sonya

  2. Miriam was a wonderful performer. Unquestionably professional, talented, and very pleasant to work with. We all feel grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to work with someone who has such great potential, and who will go on to do many interesting and worthwhile things.

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