Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 24, no. 1 (2007)

ATJ 24.1 image

Editor’s Note, v


Suehirogari (The Fan of Felicity)
Translated and introduced by Andrew T. Tsubaki, 1

Suehirogari (The Fan of Felicity) is one of twenty-three Auspicious Plays (waki kyōgen) in the current kyōgen repertory. This play uses the relationship of a servant to his master, contrast of country simplicity and city trickery, misunderstandings of language, and dance for humor.

Andrew T. Tsubaki’s encounter with kyōgen began in 1968 when Nomura Manzō (VI) toured in the United States. Thereafter, he began studying kyōgen with Manzō’s second son, Mansaku (II), and with fourth son, Shirō. He directed his first English-language kyōgen at the University of Kansas in 1970. He translated and directed a number of and kyōgen that toured widely in the United States, one of which was performed at the 1992 International Amateur Theatre Festival in Japan. His final kyōgen production in 1998 toured the northern and eastern United States. He retired from the University of Kansas in May 2000.

Shimizu (Spring Water): Translating Shimizu for a Western Audience
Translated by Yuriko Doi and Lluís Valls with Theatre of Yugen
Introduced by Jubilith Moore with Yuriko Doi, 19

This translation of Shimizu (Spring Water) pays attention to issues of haru (stretching) and osaeru (holding down) in the delivery of text. Shimizu is a complex piece. It works best as part of a longer program where the audience can become conversant with kyōgen conventions. Though it initially seems a standard play featuring Tarō Kaja as a trickster, his impersonation of a demon to frighten his master and other aspects make it more appropriate as the third play in a full program.

Yuriko Doi is the founder of Theatre of Yugen, a theatre director, a teacher, and a choreographer. Previous publications include “Silence in the Theatre” Theatron (1970) and “Masks in Fusion Theatre” in Mime Journal (1984). She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the California Arts Council artist in residency, and the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Outstanding Achievement Award in direction. In Theatre of Yugen’s twenty-seven-year history, she has directed more than forty-five plays, including seventeen kyōgen repertory productions.

Originally from Iqualada, Spain, Lluís Valls has worked since 1993 with Theatre of Yugen, performing on tour in the repertoire of kyōgen comedies as well as many mainstage productions. Most notable are Erik Ehn’s Crazy Horse; Tomio Tada’s modern play The Well of Ignorance; and Yuriko Doi’s adaptation of W. B. Yeats’s Purgatory. Since 2002 he has worked with Theatre of Yugen’s Joint Artistic team to create the original experimental pieces The Clay Play, Norton, I, Frankenstein, The Old Man and The Sea, and most recently Don Q.

Jubilith Moore is one of the artistic directors of Theatre of Yugen and a graduate of Bard College. She has been with the company, and a student of Yuriko Doi, since 1993. She has also studied with Richard Emmert and Matsui Akira (Kita School) in the United States. While under a Japan Foundation Fellowship in Tokyo, she continued training with Richard Emmert, and with Kanze School master Nomura Shirō, kyōgen master Ishida Yukio (Izumi School) and with kotsuzumi (shoulder drum) master Kama Mitsuo (Ko School).

Sakon Zaburō (Sakon Zaburō, the Hunter)
Translated and introduced by Micah Auerback, 34

This examination and translation of Sakon Zaburō, the Hunter, offers observations on the textual and performance histories of the play, including remarks on a previous English translation by A. L. Sadler. It discusses one practice from medieval Japanese religion that the play cites—the “Suwa phrase.” Further, it considers Zen and related religious phenomena in Sakon Zaburō, and ends with speculations on the play’s authorship.

Micah Auerback is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, focusing on the history of Japanese Buddhism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Additionally, he maintains a longstanding interest in classical Japanese performing arts, particularly kyōgen. In Kyoto, he has practiced and performed kyōgen as an amateur. In the United States, he has given lectures introducing kyōgen to the general public.

Chakagi Zatō (The Tea Sniffing Blind Men)
Translated and introduced by Carolyn Anne Morley, 50

The Tea Sniffing Blind Men is one of nine kyōgen plays featuring a blind man as shite (main character). It is unique in that it presents a formal community of the blind rather than two or three characters, and shows them conducting a rather unconventional tea ceremony. The characters make up the category of plays known as zatō mono in the Izumi School, and shukke zatō in the Ōkura School.

Carolyn Anne Morley is professor of Japanese language and literature at Wellesley College and the author of Transformations, Miracles, and Mischief: The Mountain Priest Plays of Kyōgen.

Mikazuki (Winnowing Love)
Translated and introduced by Jonah Salz, 61

Mikazuki (Winnowing Love) is an unusually sympathetic and realistic portrait of medieval marriage, when a husband enthralled by poetry parties threatens to ruin the household. The introduction situates the play within other kyōgen featuring female characters, and discusses the improvisatory dynamism of renga linked-poetry parties as metaphor for both marriage and kyōgen performance.

Jonah Salz is director of the Noho Theatre Group, which has since 1981 produced plays by Shakespeare,Yeats, and Beckett interpreted through and kyōgen techniques and spirit. He is program director for Traditional Theatre Training, which has introduced foreign and Japanese artists and teachers to classical dance-theatre since 1984. His publications include research in translating comedy, intercultural theatre, and contemporary kyōgen. He has translated or cotranslated traditional kyōgen, the modern play Yuya by Mishima Yukio, super-kyōgen by Umehara Takeshi, and contemporary one-man comic Issey Ogata. He is professor of comparative theatre at the Faculty of Communication, Ryukoku University, Kyoto.

Oko Sako (Oko and Sako): Wawashii Woman in the Kyōgen Oko and Sako
Translated and introduced by Minae Yamamoto Savas, 74

In this play, a peasant called Oko accuses Sako, another farmer, of letting his cow graze on Oko’s grass. While Oko’s wawashii (bold) wife offers to help him rehearse his lawsuit, she secretly hopes to dissuade her husband from bringing it to the local steward. The rehearsal satirizes the oppressive feudal justice system as the domineering wife and steward role overlap.

Minae Yamamoto Savas is a PhD candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Ohio State University. She is currently a visiting assistant professor of Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Hamilton College.

Susugigawa (The Washing River): An Instant Classic
Translated by Julie A. Iezzi
Introduced by Jonah Salz with Julie A. Iezzi, 87

Susugigawa is a pivotal play in post–World War II kyōgen. An adaptation of the medieval French farce Le Cuvier and virtually indistinguishable from traditional plays, its success marked the beginning of the “kyōgen boom.” This introduction traces the many permutations of the play, from its first shingeki (modern Japanese theatre) adaption to recent bilingual and English-language kyōgen productions.

Julie A. Iezzi is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Hawai‘i, where she teaches Japanese theatre and directs English-language kyōgen and kabuki productions. She has studied kyōgen and the traditional musical genres of nagauta, tokiwazu, and gidayū. Three of her recent translations are included in the four-volume series Kabuki Plays on Stage (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001–2003).

Jonah Salz teaches comparative theatre at Ryukoku University’s Faculty of Intercultural Communication, outside Kyoto. The director of the Noho Theatre Group and program director for Traditional Theatre Training, he publishes widely on intercultural theatre, translation, and actor training.

Ana (Hole): A Modern Kyōgen Play by Fujita Asaya
Translated and introduced by Gotō Yukihiro, 105

Ana (Hole), written by Fujita Asaya in 1965, adapts kyōgen structure and style to portray a contemporary social problem: three unemployed coal miners struggling to survive in rapidly industrializing Japan of the 1960s. The author analyzes the play’s political sensibility, and its clever use of onomatopoeia and mime.

Gotō Yukihiro is a professor of performance and Asian theatre, and acting chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, San Francisco State University. Besides his research on contemporary Japanese theatre and butō, he has adapted and directed Greek tragedy and Shakespeare using Asian theatre techniques, introducing actors and audiences alike to a fusion of diverse performance traditions and cultures.

Japannequins: A New Bilingual Kyōgen Based on the Traditional Kyōgen Roku Jizō (Six Jizō)
By Osada Sadao, based on an idea by Jonah Salz
Translated, adapted, and introduced by Jonah Salz, 124

This introduction traces the playwrighting and directing processes in the creation of the new kyōgen, Japannequins. The combined suggestions of producers, playwright, director, and actors created humor from intercultural bilingual frictions and depicted the discrepancy between the traditional and contemporary worlds.

Osada Sadao, born in Osaka in 1952, is a recipient of the 1995 Osaka Stage Arts Fellowship. He has revived rakugo and adapted them from Tokyo speech to Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka) dialect, published compilations of his new rakugo works and his conversations with Katsura Beichō, written explanations of Osaka dialect in rakugo, and collaborated with Shigeyama Akira on “rakugen,” the merging of rakugō stories and techniques with those of kyōgen.


Kyōgen in the Postwar Era
Written by Seki Kobayashi, Adapted and translated by Shinko Kagaya, 144

The kyōgen world has undergone an amazing transformation since the end of World War II. This translation has been adapted from Seki Kobayashi’s extensive (140-page) chapter “Kyōgen,” in Yokomichi Mario and Seki Kobayashi’s Nihon koten geinō to gendai: Nō kyōgen ( Japanese Traditional Performing Arts and Today: and Kyōgen, 1996).

Seki Kobayashi is professor emeritus of Musashino University, and longtime critic and champion of kyōgen. His numerous publications include Kyōgenshi kenkyū (Study on the History of Kyōgen) and Kyōgen jiten (Kyōgen Dictionary; co-edited with Furukawa Hisashi).

Shinko Kagaya is an associate professor of Japanese in the Department of Asian Studies, Williams College. Her research deals primarily with cross-cultural reception of Japanese theatre, particularly and kyōgen.


Trapping The Fox and the Trapper: Maruishi Yasushi’s Challenging Debut
Jonah Salz, 178

With its tension of wildness and self-control, secret teachings, and physical rigor, Tsurigitsune (The Fox and the Trapper) is the most challenging of the kyōgen actors’ “roles of passage.” This analysis of the play’s importance in the training of the young actor is followed by an interview with Maruishi Yasushi, a professional from outside the kyōgen tradition, who premiered the play at a late age, discovering its difficulties and rewards.

Jonah Salz teaches comparative theatre at Ryukoku University’s Faculty of Intercultural Communication, outside Kyoto. The director of the Noho Theatre Group and program director for Traditional Theatre Training, he publishes widely on intercultural theatre, translation, and actor training.

Tradition in Transition: The Shigeyama Chūzaburō Kyōgen Family Looks to the Future
John Kuzel, 197


Kyōgen in English: A Bibliography
Compiled by Julie A. Iezzi, 211


Authenticity and Accessibility: Two Decades of Translating and Adapting Kyōgen Plays for English and Bilingual Student Performances
Laurence Kominz, 235

Laurence Kominz draws on twenty years of experience teaching and producing student kyōgen plays in English to elucidate the challenges involved in creating authentic and accessible kyōgen performances. The essay explains approaches to translating dialogue, poetry, song, and onomatopoeia for the stage, and discusses bilingual productions and kyōgen for children.

Laurence Kominz is professor of Japanese language and literature at Portland State University. He earned his PhD in Japanese Literature at Columbia University and currently serves as Japan editor for Asian Theatre Journal. Publications include The Stars Who Created Kabuki: Their Lives, Loves, and Legacy (1997) and Avatars of Vengeance (1995). Kominz studies the acting and dance of kyōgen and kabuki, and teaches these performing arts in his college classes.

Theatre of Yugen’s Direction of Kyōgen in English and Kyōgen Fusion Plays
Yuriko Doi with Theatre of Yugen, 247

The award-winning Theatre of Yugen has been performing kyōgen, adaptations, and multicultural fusion productions since 1978. This article traces the challenges and developments in the ongoing process of the company’s creation of English-language kyōgen and kyōgen fusion plays.

Yuriko Doi is the founder of Theatre of Yugen, and a theatre director, teacher, and choreographer. She received Masters degrees from Waseda University (Tokyo) and San Francisco State University. Previous publications include “Silence in the Theatre” in Theatron (1970) and “Masks in Fusion Theatre” in Mime Journal (1984). She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the California Arts Council artist in residency, and the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Outstanding Achievement Award in direction. She has directed more than forty-five plays, including seventeen kyōgen repertory productions.

Muromachi Musicals: Resetting Kyōgen in a Modern Medium
Gart T. Westerhout, 262

Gart T. Westerhout introduces the Osugi Musical Theatre (OMT), located in the mountain village of Osugi (pop. 75), two hours north of Kyoto by train. Formed in 1995 to produce original theatre at the community level, the group takes Japanese theatre, folklore, and history and presents it in a new light. The primarily Japanese group performs in Japanese and has appeared in more than forty different venues, including four overseas tours.

Gart T. Westerhout is an associate professor at Kinjo College in Hakusan, Ishikawa, and the founding director of Osugi Musical Theatre. He writes or adapts the group’s musicals, including composing most of the music. The website of his group is

A Set of Kyōgen Adaptations: Henry Livings’s Pongo Plays
Anthony Graham-White, 269

This report discusses the transpositions, adaptations, and original departures from kyōgen and music hall that Henry Livings used in creating his delightful popular sketches, Pongo Plays, performed in England in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anthony Graham-White is Professor of Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a past editor of Theatre Journal (then Educational Theatre Journal) and author of The Drama of Black Africa (1974) and Punctuation and Its Dramatic Value in Shakespearian Drama (1995). His articles “‘Ritual’ in Contemporary Theatre and Criticism” and “The Characteristics of Traditional Theatre” (both 1976) were translated into Chinese for Drama (Beijing) in 1991.


The Drunkard’s Revenge and Love’s Labor. Adapted and directed by Sekine Masaru from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Performed by Roma Kyōgen, Japanese National Tour, 2005
reviewed by Suzuki Masae, 278

The Kyōgen of Errors. Adapted by Takahashi Yasunari from William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Directed by Nomura Mansai, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco International Arts Festival, 3 June 2005
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 284


In a Thicket. Adapted by Nomura Mansai from the short story by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke
reviewed by Tim Medlock, 287


Ronald Cavaye, Paul Griffith, and Akihiko Senda, A Guide to the Japanese Stage: From Traditional to Cutting Edge
reviewed by Holly Blumner, 291

Tetsuo Kishi and Graham Bradshaw, Shakespeare in Japan
reviewed by Daniel Gallimore, 293

Shelley Fenno Quinn, Developing Zeami: The Noh Actor’s Attunement in Practice
reviewed by Margaret Coldiron, 297

Erik Ehn, ed., Theatre of Yugen, 25 Years: A Retrospective
reviewed by Judy Halebsky, 299

Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shūji and Postwar Japan
reviewed by John D. Swain, 301

Jennifer Lindsay, ed., Between Tongues: Translation and/of/in Performance in Asia
reviewed by Thomas M. Hunter, 304