What is Noh Theater?
Noh theater is a stylized form of Japanese theater performed since the 14th century. The style is known for its slow and exaggerated movements and highly dramatic stories. The art of the form is detailed and guided by subtle philosophical principles. Noh theater remains popular throughout Japan and performances can occasionally be seen in America and Europe.
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The stage used in Noh drama is largely comprised of a roofed stage supported by four pillars made mostly from cypress wood. Sets are not used, and the only ornamentation is a painting of a pine tree on the back wall of the stage. The pine tree tradition dates back to the time when religious plays were held outdoors, and powerful spirits were once believed to inhabit the trees in order to watch the plays and grant blessings to the performers and audience. The stage also has a narrow bridge leading off to the right, used for entrances and exits.
The roles in Noh theater consist of four major types. The shite, or hero, often appears as a ghost who becomes a human, or a human who becomes a deity. The waki is the rival or antagonist of the hero. Kyogen roles are used for short comedic interludes during intermissions or breaks. The fourth category of role is the hayashi, musicians who accompany the play with flutes and drums. Other more minor roles in Noh theater include kōken, or stage hands, and the jiutai, or chorus members.
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