An American story told through the ancient Japanese theatrical form of “noh” will be one of the first productions in the newly reopened Charity Randall Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial on Pitt’s campus.
“Gettysburg: An American Noh” will have its world premiere at the newly renovated theater at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, sponsored by the Pitt Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. It will be performed by Theatre Nohgaku, which was founded by Ohio-born Richard Emmert and a group of English-speaking performers to bring the art of Noh to contemporary audiences.
Noh, which originated in the 14th century, combines highly stylized dance, chant, music, masks and costume with intense inner concentration and physical discipline for a retelling of a story, instead of a re-enacting.
According to Asia for Educators at Columbia University, “A Noh play portrays one all-encompassing emotion dominating the main character, the shite (she-tay). Whether jealousy, rage, or sorrow, all music, gesture, dance, and recitation are used to build the emotion to its final climax at the close of the play. Often the plays depict the return of a historical personage, in spirit — or “ghostly” — form, to the site of a significant event in his or her life.”
“Gettysburg” imagines the meeting between the ghost of Confederate Gen. Lewis Armistead and a 21st-century descendant of his friend, Union Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, whose troops killed Armistead at the Battle of Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge. The story of Hancock and Armistead’s friendship is told, including their roles on opposite sides of the conflict.
Choral concert music and poetic dialogue is accompanied by violin, harmonica and the drums of Noh.
There have been several pre-performance “Noh Before You Go” lectures at local libraries this month, and there will be a symposium on Sept. 13 and 14 at Pitt bringing together scholars, writers and practitioners to discuss the play as Noh, as drama, and as performance of memory.
On Sept. 13, the symposium will be at the Gettysburg Room at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with topics such as “Battles, Loss, and Enacting the Past” and “Gettysburg: War, Memory, and Trauma,” and a keynote address by Yamanaka Reiko, director of the Nogami Memorial Center for Nohgaku Studies at Hosei University in Tokyo.
Sessions on Sept. 14 will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Croghan Schenley Room, Cathedral of Learning, Room 156, and include a roundtable discussion with members of Theatre Nohgaku and others.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. performance on Sept. 14 are $15; $10 for students and seniors, and can be purchased online or at the door.
For more information contact Elizabeth Oyler, associate professor of premodern Japanese literature and performance, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Susan Jones
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