At the Hawk’s Well
Text by William Butler Yeats, Music by Richard Emmert
First staged in London in 1916, At the Hawk’s Well reflected the Irish poet-playwright’s fascination with noh. The play is based on the Cuchulain legends of Irish mythology and describes Cuchulain’s encounter with the guardians at the well of the waters of immortality. Several versions of this play have been produced in Japanese by professional noh troupes.
Atsumori: A Chamber Noh
Adaptation of traditional noh by David Crandall
The Buddhist priest Rensho returns to the site of a battle in the 12th century Genji-Heike civil wars. It is here where the former warrior Rensho had killed the young Atsumori in battle, an event which prompted Rensho to become a priest. The ghost of Atsumori appears to him, retells the story of the battle and, though his former enemy is before him, realizes that through the power of the priest’s prayers they will be reborn together on the same lotus flower.
Text and music by David Crandall
A young man travels to a seaside village and seeks shelter at a church. There he encounters a deranged woman called Crazy Jane, who is looking for a lover named Tom who left her long ago. She recounts how she and Tom had once danced together and how he had disappeared, leaving her heartbroken. Caught up in her memories, she begins to dance, drawing the young man in as her partner. Jane disappears in the midst of the dance, leaving the young man to wonder what became of her, and beginning another cycle of loss and madness.
Read the full text of Crazy Jane on our WordPress blog
Text by Jannette Cheong, Music by Richard Emmert
A young traveler in search of her father’s roots journeys to his birthplace in Southeast China and discovers a pagoda. There she meets a distraught woman pining for the return of her long-departed son. The woman and her daughter vanish, whereupon the traveler meets an oyster fisherman, who tells her two stories: an ancient legend about the pagoda before them and another more recent story of Meilin, who sent her son away to save him from certain starvation. The traveler realizes that Meilin was her grandmother and holds vigil for Meilin’s departed spirit. The spirits of Meilin and her son (the traveler’s father) appear and are reunited in the spirit world. Based loosely on playwright Jannette Cheong’s own family history, Pagoda is a poignant story of filial love and redemption refined through noh.
See an excerpt from Theatre Nohgaku’s performance of Pagoda
Read a review of the 2011 Asian Tour of Pagoda
Read a review of the 2009 European Tour of Pagoda
Text by Greg Giovanni, Music by Richard Emmert
Pine Barrens is a fifth-category demon piece, based on the legend of the Jersey Devil, an evil monster said to reside in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Two witches travel to the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens to hunt for a comrade who disappeared there while practicing their sacred art. When they arrive, they meet the demon in two different forms, as a young child who warns them of the dangers of the swamp, then as the demon in his true, terrifying form. A trio of New Jersey mosquitoes provides a humorous kyogen interlude.
Read a review of Pine Barrens
Sumida River (Sumidagawa)
Classical Japanese noh by Motomasa (1401?-1432)
English translation and noh musical/performance adaptation of the Kita school version by Richard Emmert
A ferryman on the Sumida River is about to take a traveler across, but they decide to wait for a madwoman following close behind. The woman arrives and tells how she is looking for her son who has been taken by slave traders. As they cross, they notice a crowd on the opposite bank conducting a Buddhist memorial service. The ferryman tells how a boy died a year earlier after having been left behind by slave traders. The woman realizes that the boy was her own son. The ferryman takes her to the grave. When she begins to recite prayers, the boy’s voice is heard from inside the grave. His ghost then appears to her but when she reaches out to touch him, he slips back into the grave and disappears leaving only “sadness and sorrow.”
Read a review of Where Rivers Meet, including Sumida River
Zahdi Dates and Poppies
Text by Carrie Preston, Music by David Crandall
Zahdi Dates and Poppies is a contemporary, masked, lyric, dance piece which adapts the poetic, musical, and performance styles of the ancient Japanese noh theater to explore a timeless concern: the impact of war on those who do the killing and their families. While based on noh performance techniques, Zahdi Dates and Poppies expands the traditional idiom with flexible structure, innovative mask and costume design, with modified music and choreography that create a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience.
See the promo video for Zahdi Dates and Poppies
And an excerpt from the performance
Read an interview with the artistic team for Zahdi Dates and Poppies
Read a review of Zahdi Dates and Poppies
Zahdi Dates and Poppies was developed in part through a residency at the Kô Festival of Performance.