Japanese Kabooki Plays
In Japanese NOH Theater all actors are required to learn two basic arts and the three role types in order to give a give a quality performance that is perfected over the centuries.
The two Basic Arts have two major components : the Art of Chanting and the Art of Dancing.The first: the Art of Chanting where the student actor has to learn to tone his voice and learnt to control the pitch of his voice and set he miter of his voice according to the role type.This is to present a quality sound as the poetry is sung in the first sequence(Jo) known as the shidai which lasts up till hito-utai.This song lasts only5-7-5 counts.In the same way issei is performed when the shite enters consisting of 7-5-7 units of syllables to create a blend of melodies and rhymes to suit the scene. For example in the play the Well-Craddle the Shite enters the stage with the Shadai resites the poem and then sings herself along with the chorus and the Waki.
The second component of the Basic Arts : the Art of Dancing which consists of imitation of character archetype such as the old person, a woman or even the warrior.For performing these characters well one must study the movements by through observation and studying The Three Role Types: the old person, a woman and the role of a warrior.
As the actor learns various other kinds of roles; grow naturally out of the knowledge and comprehension of the two basic arts and the three role types thus equipping the actor with skills to adopt the style of acting appropriate for the character.
It is the training with Two Basic Art and the Three Role Types will result in committing and allowing the actor to present his own vision no matter what the role as the actor in the beginning lessons is left on his own to imitate the master to his own interpretation and understanding of the play which only engaged the young actor (8-10 years) and so he will not feel pressured into this career.This will also mark the willingness of the actor to develop a trust for more and a make a deeper connection.
Art that remains superficial and external is gravely discouraged as it will inhibit devotion to the art.This type requires a full interest and investment of time as the comprehension of the performance matures to the potential of being the master of the arts.
Any art if not combined with ones soul cannot be called art as it only remains superficial and externalized.There will be lack of interest,would not be able to fully understand the key function and substance of the play.Therefore, in No there are futher sub-division of the two Basic Arts and the Three Role Types : the Skin , the Flesh and the Bone.
The Bone represents that exceptional creative spark that is naturally present in the actor’s performance and only comes through his inborn capabilities.
The Flesh id the visible skill the flow and the smoothness in his performance that the actor has perfected throughout his career through the knowledge of the Two Basic Arts and the Three Role Types.
The Skin is the method in which the act is performed, how gracefully and effortlessly it is performed.
In essence the art that comes through observation ,the art that comes through the sound and the art that comes through the heart; can all be equated with the Skin, the Flesh and the Heart to the Bone.
The beauty of the voice of the actor represents the Skin, the interest of the melody is the Flesh and the breathing techniques used represent the Bone. Similarly, in the dance the actor’s physical appearance would constitute for the Skin, the creative motion and the pattern represent the Flesh and ; the manifestation of emotions represent the Bone.
For any art to flourish it is vital to knit something of substance and is essential for it to serve a function e.g Ziami’s notion of a flower is in the growth and maturity of the actor’s skills, in the fluidity and effortless perfection with elegance at his own pace.
The perfect freedom requires years of practice of the Two Basic Arts and the Three Role Types and all its elements : the Skin, The Flesh and The Bone; when fused together in a performance in the right balance produces a perfect performance. This kind of growth and maturity in the skills and the understanding of the play and all its functions from a play that is well composed, well comprehended as well as well executed by the actor. This Type of perfection will make the actor a potential master of the art of performance.
In No plays a master is the one who has attained the pinnacle of artistic maturity and is therefore entitled to perform the play in an unorthodox manner as he has learnt all secrets of a good No performance and is capable of performing any role from any play.
It is the journey of the attainment of such perfection from the beginning to the achievement of perfection is what is the literal blossoming of a flower in Ziami’s notion. To shed all imperfections, cut out all impurities and improper mannerism and attain the ultimate peace __ Nirvana.
The Japanese take such arts as worship as it requires mind, body and soul to attain the perfect harmony and balance.
In the play Ziami’s notion is articulated by :
The movement ( movement is the Skin)of the old lady from the first entrance till the end of the play makes a complete circle of the stage twice.This circling of the stage serves as a metaphor for the poem section describing that this happens day after day and that she stays forever loyal to him.Hence, through the course of the play the slow and gradual revelation serves as a metaphor for Ziami’s notion of the opening of the flower as it take a long time for a flower to blossom and at its own time.
With the entrance of the waki the (Monk) marks the first phase of the play known as the Jo and after the appearance of the Shite (the Woman) is the Ha phase of the play.
The language the author has used is very skillfully put in place as a poem( the first few lines by let the wild wind blow) is something that resembles or represents a memory__as if someone is telling a story about someone long dead.This sounds like a Chorus telling the story in a voice over in a movie.
When the Shite( the Woman) enters she also sings ( the song is the Flesh) a section of the poem (Dawn after Dawn,Holy water…Refreshes both heart and the moon) tells the audience that the lady has spent a long time there and is there to offer a prayer offering Buddha holy water and a leafy twig standard for prayer.Going further down the poetry becomes increasingly becomes metaphorical e.g the reference of the moon is a symbol for loneliness in Japanese literature and the reference of autumn nights refers to melancholy and sadness in the atmosphere.Another refrence of the gleaming moon through the grasses again shows a negative picture of something that is lost.
The play write has not revealed that the woman who is praying is for a grave mound and has kept it ambiguous as to who this grave belongs to the lady who is praying or her long lost lover who she is missing so much that she has no hope of remaining there. Again the structure of the exchanges between the Shite are short as if a conversation is taking place and as if they are finishing each other’s sentences which represents a story of two lovers who we parted by death and is being retold as a memory.
Throughout the play the Chorus is commenting as well as telling the inner state of the woman.The monk however, is telling the retelling the story of two parted lovers and finishing the woman’s sentences which seem to appear as a conversation between the two ( the lady and the monk) as well as to accompany the action of the scene with words of the Monk telling the story not only to the spectators but also seems as if there is presence of an audience within the play listening the story.
Shite (the woman) leaves and reenters wearing a robe given to her by her lover Narihira and now recognize that she is dead.This return marks the second phase of the play called the Ku.She dances and sings remembering what really happened in her past as they grew up together the side of the well-cradle measuring their hights.This measurement also stands to measure the time that has passed since then and also a measurement of their love for each other.