The 19th Udaka Seiran Noh no Kai 2018
- Greetings and introduction: Udaka Tatsushige
- Noh: Hanjo (Shite: Udaka Norishige)
- Kyōgen: Niku jūhachi
- Noh: Kuzu – hakutō (Shite: Udaka Michishige)
We publish here some thoughts on Udaka Michishige’s performance of Sagi (The Heron), by Rebecca Teele Ogamo.
“The Seiran Noh performance of Sagi on September 11th, 2016 celebrating Udaka Michishige’s 70th birthday was one of the plays featured in the Kansai area Noh reviews in the Nohgaku Times. As the critic points out, the story is a demonstration of how a bird, without spirit or mind, shows its gratitude towards the emperor and has no real emotional expression. This being the case, the success or failure of a performance rests on the actor’s skills, refined over time, to portray the sense of purity and innocence of the heron through making the face a vehicle of abstract expression, as a mask is not used, but is performed hitamen, or with the face as a mask, or instead of a mask. The critic was especially impressed by the way that Michishige was able to do this, keeping his face completely devoid of expression. His portrayal of the utter stillness of the bird when it stopped, as though perching without moving had a majestic grace, and the seemingly effortless performance of the unique and extremely difficult dance of the heron, meticulously and without any wasted movement, seemed to reveal to the audience the actual heron on the shore of the pond.
I have seen Udaka-sensei in other hitamen roles, but always as in the role of a living person, as in Hachinoki or Mochizuki, or of a ghost manifesting as a living person as in the first half of Atsumori. This was the first time to see him in the role of a non-human creature, relying on completely on focused movement, rather than a mask, to portray the essence of the heron. I was startled when I realized that I was no longer aware of an actor or his face, but felt I was watching a heron as it danced. The critic seemed to confirm this experience. “I wonder what kind of Sagi I will be?” Michishige mused one day after a mask carving class. I think it was the natural result of years of dedicated uncompromising practice.
Whatever our path, challenges are limitless, and the base and foundation on which we pursue them must always be a constant refining of basic skills.
For INI, too, this means a continuing renewal of our commitment to sharing and exploring the traditions of Noh. We grow and gain energy through shared experiences of how we test our limits. Please let us know about your path and progress, and know we support you in your challenges.”
Rebecca Teele Ogamo
In the early hours of September 13th 2015 Udaka Michishige continued with putting the finishing touches on the Deigan mask he would use later that day in his performance of Teika, the center piece of the 16th Seirannoh-no-kai at the Kongo Noh Theatre: adding more color, polishing, pausing to check the effect once again. This was the latest effort in the search for the essence of the expression of the Deigan mask, in this case for the essence that would most effectively portrayal his interpretation of the spirit of Princess Shokushi Naishinno. As always the process was continuing until the last possible moment.
His thoughts at this time as he kept on with this search included welcoming the 45th observance of his independence as a Noh actor and also his wishes for INI members. “Independence” can mean embarking on a lonely road and uncompromising battle of seeking the essence of your art. Michishige continues to be his own harshest critic and taskmaster, but he also treasures and finds strength in fellow travellers on the path. He hopes that you, too, as his fellow travellers are keeping to your path of seeking the highest essence in your endeavours.
Michishige also looks forward to sharing in training and performing Noh with as many of you as possible in the Gala Noh Recital at the Kongo Noh Theatre on August 21, 2016. More details will be coming soon, but please put the date down on your calendar and get in touch with us with any questions. As always at INI will do what we can to facilitate your participation.
In closing, the performance of Teika was very well received. Here are a few photos from the performance though they are hardly a substitute for the experience of the performance itself.
Rebecca Teele Ogamo
This year the annual Udaka Seiran Noh performance will feature the Noh Ataka with the very special kogaki (performance variations) ennen takinagashi, kai-tsuke kai-date. Udaka Michishige will take the leading shite role, while his sons Tatsushige and Norishige will take the tsure supporting roles as disguised yamabushi priests. Michishige’s eldest son Tatsushige will also perform his first Noh with a kogaki: Hagoromo (banshiki variation).
Minamoto no Yoshitsune, one of Japan’s tragic heros, is known as a talented and charismatic general, and as the lover of shirabyoshi dancer Shizuka Gozen. The relatiohship between Yoshitsune and his retainer, the warrior-monk Musashibo Benkei, is particularly celebrated in the Noh plays Hashi-Benkei, Funa-Benkei, and Ataka. In all of these Noh the role of Yoshitsune is played by a ko-kata, or child actor. In Ataka the role of Musashibo Benkei is taken by the shite, or main player.
In Ataka, Yoshitsune is trying to escape the unjustified wrath of his elder brother Yoritomo by fleeing to the south with a group of his men who are in the guise of yamabushi, mountain aescetics, led by Benkei. Officials at barrier checkpoints along the way have been warned to be on the lookout for the fugitives. Through the wit and audacity of Benkei they are able to pass at the Ataka Barrier. The high drama of intrigue as the group makes its escape, the loyalty of Benkei which gives him the strength to protect his master at a moment of extreme danger, the sympathy shown by the warden, Togashi, join to make this one of the most dramatic plays of the Noh repertory. The extemporaneous ‘reading’ of the scroll calling for donations, or Kanjincho, is a highlight of the play and the title of the Kabuki variation of this story.
(Rebecca Teele Ogamo)
Place: The Kongo Noh Theatre, Nakadachiuri-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. 602-0912. Subyway Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit (n.6), walk South 300m.
Time: Sunday, 14th September 2014 13:30-17:00 p.m. (doors open at 13:00)
Tickets: center reserved seats 8,000 yen, side reserved seats 6,000 yen, general admission mid-center seats 5,000 yen, student general admission mid-center seats 3,000 yen
Synopses of the plays will be available at the theater in English, French, and Italian.
For information and tickets reservation please use the form below, or contact the Udaka-kai Office c/o Rebecca Teele Ogamo:
TEL: +81 090 9615 0886
FAX :+81 075 722 3668