David Surtasky, technical director for the College of Fine Arts at IUP, and alumnus Greg Giovanni are both members of the international performance group Theatre Nohgaku, which has been invited to perform in four European cities this fall. Both are alumni of IUP’s Department of Theater and Dance. Surtasky graduated in 1989 and Giovanni graduated in 1984.
They will perform a new, contemporary, English-language noh play, Pagoda, and provide support for the traditional play Kiyotsune, with stops scheduled in three cities in the United Kingdom, including London and Oxford (as part of the Japan-UK 150 Festival celebrations), and in Dublin. They will then perform in Paris as the final stop of the two-week tour.
The Oshima Noh Theatre (Kita-ryu school) of Hiroshima, Japan, is collaborating with Theatre Nohgaku, based in Tokyo and New York, in this joint production of classical and contemporary theater.
Kiyotsune is a popular classical fifteenth-century “Warrior” noh play by Zeami, often regarded as the founding father of noh in its present form. Pagoda is a new English-language noh play by Jannette Cheong with music by Richard Emmert. It is rooted in the true story of the author’s grandmother who sent her youngest son away to sea when he was a young boy to save him from the famine ravaging rural China in the 1920s. He never returned. After his death in London in 1973, playwright Cheong went to find her father’s birthplace. Her experiences—at times tragic and other times uplifting—are combined with an ancient Chinese legend to form the basis of the play.
The project includes Getting to Noh, a program of public workshops, lectures, and educational activities to introduce the dance, music, costumes, and masks of Japanese noh theater to a broader audience. This will be the first time a strictly English-language noh play has been written by a British playwright and produced in Europe as a fully realized noh performance.
Performance dates for the 2009 tour are December 2–3 at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, London; December 5 at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin; December 7–8 at the O’Reilly Theatre, Keble College, Oxford; and December 9–10 at the Maison de la Culture du Japon, Paris.