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Friday, Jan. 9, 2009

Noh way: Local tradition gets English twist

Staff report

A bilingual noh play, "Manhattan Okina," which was first presented in Tokyo in January 2006, will play at Le Deco in Shibuya, Tokyo, on Jan. 12.

News photo
Masked: Makiko Sakurai will perform in "Manhattan Okina" in Tokyo on Jan. 12. MASAAKI KOBAYASHI PHOTO

Richard Emmert, a Kita School-certified noh instructor, will sing the background utai in English. Emmert, who has studied, taught and performed noh in Japan since 1973, is a professor of Asian theater and music at Musashino University.

Makiko Sakurai, who wrote the noh play and composed the music for it, will perform the role of shite (leading character) as an okina (old man). She will sing in Japanese in the style of Tendai shomyo, the chanting of the Tendai School of Buddhism, and perform in the style of a shirabyoshi, a female singer-dancer of the Heian Period (794-1185).

Jiro Sakuma, a Kanze School noh player, will perform in Japanese the role of waki (second lead) as "the spirit of flowers."

The noh play will feature music on tsutsumi (hand-held drum), nohkan and ryuteki (noh and gagaku [court music] flutes), and two other shomyo singers.

The story is about an old African-American man dying alone in a hospital for the destitute in Manhattan, New York. The scent from the spirit of flowers envelops him and takes him to heaven, where he meets an old Japanese-American man and an old Hispanic man who also died lonely deaths in Manhattan.

These men become okina who have the power to bless people living in poverty and solitude in Manhattan. Sakurai and the two shomyo singers play the roles of the three old men.

"Manhattan Okina" starts at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 at Le Deco 1 in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tickets are ¥2,700 in advance. (¥3,000 at the door). For more information, call 080-3094-0951, e-mail onbasarasatanba@yahoo.co.jp or visit www.megalo.biz


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