TFMS Department Debuts Kyogen Comedies

On Nov.  8, the Theater Film and Media Studies Department debuted the first showing of “Laughing at Life: A Performance of Kyôgen Plays” in the Bruce Davis Theater.

The Kyôgen Performance, which consisted of four miniature plays, was based on popular Japanese Kyôgen comedies.  The comedies followed the style and slow vocalization of traditional Japanese theater. The specific and drawn out pronunciations and the movements of the actors mirrored the Kyôgen style while adding to the humor of the plays.

Professor of Theater and Film Studies and Asian Specialist Holly Blumner, who directed the play, explained “some of the themes of the plays include servants outwitting their master, compassion, and uprooting social order.” Two of the plays, Busu (Delicious Poison) and Bôshibari (Tied to a Pole), involved the servants Taro and Jiro getting into mischief while their master was away.   Utzubozaru (The Monkey Bow Quiver) was a more dramatic piece that involved a feudal lord’s attempt to retrieve fur from a monkey trainer’s star monkey. “This play was used to introduce the young actress (Emily Muskgrove) and the story is really compelling,” said Blumner.  According to the TFMS website “The daimyô learns a lesson, compassion, and the potentially tragic turns to celebration.” The performance of Iroha centered on the relationship of a parent and child as the child prepares for educational instruction.

While the Kyôgen Comedies were a new experience for many in attendance, the audience did not hesitate to laugh and applaud the humorous circumstances of the play.

“This was my first time seeing a Kyôgen play but I thought all of them were really witty,” said senior Caroline Posner.  Blumner added that, “Kyogen is really fun and it’s also great training for the actors.”

Blumner presented “Laughing at Life” after a four-year break from directing Kyôgen comedies at SMCM. “It takes a great amount of time and order to arrange this and I think audiences might appreciate it more if it isn’t shown every year,” said Blumner. “I try really hard to introduce Japanese culture to the student body and I’m hoping the audience will see the humor of the performance.”

The theater was nearly to full capacity on the opening night.

The Bruce Davis Theater will continue showing the play from Nov. 15-18.

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