“Beyond 2020” OIS Students Noh Theatre

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Twenty-two OIS elementary and middle school students performed the Noh play, “The Fairy of Water” with actors from the Yamamoto Noh Theatre of Osaka. Hundreds of people watched the performance at the Grand Front Osaka mall on the evening of Friday, November 4. It was a unique cultural and artistic experience for the students and their parents.

Noh is a major form of classical musical drama of Japan dating back to the 1300s. It is the oldest major theatre art still performed regularly today. Our students were invited to perform with the troupe as part of wider movement in Japan to expose foreigners to Japanese culture in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It is also an opportunity to make noh more accessible to younger audiences and international theatre goers. The play was well attended, with over 300 people in attendance as well as shoppers and commuters in Grand Front enjoying the performance. Well-known kyogen and film actor Mansai Nomura welcomed everyone to the play.

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Yamamoto Nohgakudo is the oldest Noh theatre in Osaka. They are known for bringing noh to a wider audience. The Chief Cabinet of Olympic and Para-olympic promotion headquarters funded this project. “The Fairy of the Water” was first performed in 2009 and this was the 16th performance of the play in Japan and abroad. The children played international birds that come to help clean the polluted waters of Osaka. As a result, the water deity comes back to the Yodo river and blesses the whole city with long life and healthy. One of the goals of the play is to build awareness for water resource preservation in hopes for world peace and prosperity.

It is mesmerizing to watch a noh play. Musical tastes have changed in the past 800 years and hearing the drums and chorus of noh is like going back in a time machine. The voices of the the actors, chorus and band are deep, strained grunts and low-toned song. Every movement of the actors has meaning and the complex vocals along with masks and costumes, make for subtle movements that need some effort of a modern audience to appreciate. The discipline of execution from the professional actors of Yamamoto was amazing to watch.

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OIS students were smartly integrated into the play. They brought a lightness and comedic relief to a mostly intense play. The students had a chance to talk about water in their countries, ranging from the Oregon coast, to the Arabian Gulf to waterfalls in Bolivia. The children also made their own costumes with the help of Yamamoto choreographers.

NHK World also was filming a story about the international students learning the art of noh and they spent several days with the students at rehearsals and interviewing parents after the performance. It is scheduled to air later next week.

OIS would like to thank everyone who made the event possible, especially OIS parent Chizuko Bobrove, who facilitated the rehearsals and served as a liaison between the theatre group and the school. OIS would also like to thank the Yamamoto Nohgakudo and the Tokyo olympic promotion board.

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