AKIRA MATSUI (Performer as the Hawk with Theatre Nohgaku) is a master actor-teacher of the Kita School of Japanese classical noh theater. He was born in 1946 in Wakayama, south of Osaka and began studying noh at the age of seven. He showed such talent that, at age 12, he became a "live-in apprentice" to Kita Minoru, the 15th generation of noh masters of the Kita School (one of the five guilds of shite main role actors). Matsui mastered noh dance and chant, then returned to his hometown at age 20 where he has since been based though performing and teaching throughout Japan. Matsui has also been active for nearly 25 years in disseminating noh abroad. He has trained student actors in noh in numerous foreign countries including India, Australia, Germany, England, and has offered master classes at colleges and theatres across the U.S. and Canada. "I enjoy bringing noh abroad; it helps me to see noh's strengths and weaknesses," he remarked recently. From his firm foundation in tradition, Matsui has experimented in intercultural fusions. In Kyoto, he has acted in NOHO Theatre Group productions of plays by Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, and Beckett, and has written plays based on Rashoman and Hoichi. Together with American noh composer-performer Richard Emmert, he has created a series of "English Noh" including St. Francis, At the Hawk’s Well, and Eliza. In addition, he has choreographed noh-style dances to jazz ballads and to poetry by T.S. Eliot. He has also choreographed, co-directed, and acted in bilingual productions at American colleges and European theaters, utilizing noh spirit and technique. In 1998, he was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Japanese government.