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2008.9.8
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Performances celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the National Noh Theater begin (from Sept. 2008)
      This year marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the National Noh Theater in 1983 as a center for the performance of Noh/Kyogen, for training the next generation of Noh performers and for Noh-related research and archiving of documents and other materials regarding Noh. September 3rd has seen the start of a series of performances commemorating this anniversary.

    Noh has been handed down and performed over the generations by a number of traditional lines of master performers adhering to a number of different schools of Noh, including the Kanze school, the Hosho school, the Kongo school, the Konparu school and the Kita school. Besides running non-partisan programs that transcend these divisions of school, the National Noh Theater undertakes performances of old plays revived through research projects and creating new Noh plays in collaboration with contemporary writers such as Takeshi Umehara and Jakucho Setouchi. In all, the Theater produces approximately 50 performance programs a year. To train the next generation of performers, the Theater runs a program that trains waki-kata actor/dancers and hayashi-kata musicians over six-year training periods. Last year 33 trainees graduated in the seventh class of this training course. Of these, 25 are now active as Noh performers. Since Noh has been added to UNESCO’s first list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” The Theater has begun new promotional efforts aimed at winning new audience among the younger generation and foreign audience since 2006 through new measures such as fitting all the theater seats with LCD monitors displaying simultaneous commentary/interpretation subtitles in [contemporary] Japanese and English.

    As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, the Theater’s entire program for September has been designated commemorative anniversary program, including a five-day schedule of six special performances starring many of the most celebrated names in Noh today.

    The special 25th anniversary performances begin (on Sept. 3) with the same program performed when the National Noh Theater opened in 1983, the play Ema, which includes Okina, a special dance praying for peace and the productiveness of grain, and other works. The second day of performances (Sept. 13) will feature Ohara goko and Taizan fukuna, works only existing in the Kongo school Noh. The third day of the anniversary performances (Sept. 15) is a rare case of the Takasago, which is usually performed with part of Okina being performed without it. The fourth day performance (Sept. 19) brings together two performers recently designated “Living National Treasures” of Japan, Mansaku Nomura (2007) and Akiyo Tomoeda (2008), while the fifth day (Sept. 26) features the first performance of To zumo ever at the National Noh Theater, with a large cast of over 40 performers. (Tickets sold out).

    Other special anniversary performances will continue until the end of the year, and in light of the fact that 2008 is also the 1,000th anniversary of the writing of The Tales of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, there will be performances of old works dealing with episodes from The Tales of Genji, as well as a new work by Jakucho Setouchi titled Yume no ukihashi (Oct. 22, 23). There will also be a coming out performance by recent graduates of the Theater’s training program with guest performances by shite (main performer) of the Kanze school (Dec. 10). Also on the program for next year are special collaborative performances (Mar. 28, 29, 2009) with the National Theater, Okinawa, celebrated the 5th anniversary of its opening this year.

    In addition to these performances, a National Noh Theatre Collection Exhibition of some 200 works including masks, costumes and texts that have never been properly exhibited before – some of which are of “National Treasure” status – will tour five venues around the country. This will be part of ongoing efforts by the Theater to promote Noh through the art works and documents in its collection.
+National Noh Theater 25th anniversary website (Japanese only)
http://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/noh25th/index.html
+National Theater of Japan, Japan Arts Council
http://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/english/index.html

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