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Friday, March 21, 2008


Setagaya theater brings kyogen forward

Mansai Nomura is the leading star of kyogen (Japan's traditional comedy theater), but this 41-year-old who made his stage debut at age 3 has several other artistic faces, having acted in films, TV dramas and in contemporary theater dramas, too.

News photo
Mansai Nomura (left) plays the sumo wrestler alongside his father, Mansaku Nomura, as the Chinese emperor in popular kyogen drama "Tojin Zumo (Chinese Sumo.)" © YASUHIDE KUGE

It was because of his experience in such collaborative works that, in 2002, Nomura was — to the surprise (and delight) of many in view of his tradition-based roots — appointed artistic director of the forward-looking Setagaya Public Theatre (SEPT) in Tokyo's Sangenjaya district.

From the outset, Nomura's declared aim at SEPT was to foster an even closer relationship between the traditional and contemporary theater worlds, and in the intervening six years he has vigorously promoted that aim, having programmed several modern kyogen and noh works at SEPT. Last year, as well, he staged his own original kyogen-style adaptation of Shakespeare's "Richard III," titled "Kuninusu-bito (A Country Thief')," using a cast of both kyogen and contemporary theater actors.

This time, as part of his "Kyogen Gekijo (Kyogen Theater)" program, Nomura has chosen to stage the popular kyogen drama "Tojin Zumo (Chinese Sumo)" — but to direct it himself in a contemporary-theater style suited to today's lively audiences. In addition, as this work is famous for its particularly big cast — and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this public theater — Nomura auditioned ordinary people for minor roles. He also gave consideration to his foreign public by building in the projection of English subtitles for a special staging on March 29.

"Kyogen Gekijo Part 4" runs from March 21-30 at Setagaya Public Theatre, a 2-minute walk from Sangenjaya Station on the Denen Toshi or Setagaya lines.

For more details, call SEPT at (03) 5432-1526 or visit www.setagaya-pt.jp/

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