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Ib Theatre Ri Noh Costume Essay

Noh is known as the classical lyrics drama of Japan. Noh is a combination of serveral dance and drama forms that came before it. (Noh and Kyogen) It embraces the people’s love for the religious and cultral traditions that involve the mix of Japanese Dengaku and Sarugaku (which is a mix between a style of dance and mime). (Noh and Kyogen) Noh is fundamentally a symbolic theatre that focuses on the representation and appreciation of ritual traditions and the appreciation of culture.

A tradtitional romantic play in Noh theater is Hanjo (Lady Han). The story of Hanjo is about a yujo named Hanago that works in an inn. A man named Yoshida no Shosho came into the inn for the night on his journey east. Hanago and Yoshida no Shosho fell in love and exchanged fans before he leaves for his journey. After Shosho is gone Hanago becomes nicknamed Hanjo becuase of her deranged and obsessive love for Shosho with the only memories of him being his fan.

In this love story, the fans are a representation of the giving of their hearts to one another (connecting to the plot of which this story was derived from); in which the only memory that the women has of her lost lover is the fan. Throughout the play Hanjo constantly has Shosho’s fan in her posession and the more she waves the fan in the play, the more deranged she becomes thoughout the play. (Keene) One of the main aspects of Noh theater is the use of masks and to a Noh actor, the mask gives the actor behind the mask the responsibilty “to be the living embodiment of the qualities he is called upon to represent”. Toki)

The masks in No theater that are commonly usedare the masks that were created between the fourteenth century and the seventeenth century and are prefered to be used in a performance rather than modern mask for the modern mask lacking in origionality compared to the classic. (Toki) In Noh theater, generally the Shite (main actor/ protagonist) actor is the only actor masked in the play, but in certain instances the Shitez-zure (assistant of the Shite) will also wear a mask but only when representing a female character. Toki) Even though the Shite is the only actor to be wearing a mask, the Shite will not wear a mask when representing a character in a earthly or a realistic piece of work and theatrical make-up is rerely and often not used during Noh performances. (Toki) The most common masks that are used are masks that represent female characters.

The female mask are used to represent women of all ages and symbolize at times the beauty of the women or the ghost/ spirits of dead women. Toki) Different masks are used to represent the three main type of women, which are catagorized by age. (Toki) Young women are represented by ko-omote, magojiro, and waka-onna; the middle-Aged women are represented by Shakumi, Fukai, and Zoh; and finally the Old women are represented by uba and rojo. (Toki) Yet on occasion the Hannya mask is used in order to represent the vengeful women and conveys negative expressions and attitude. (Toki)

When it comes to the costume design for Noh performances there are four different catagorities that the costumes can be organized into: costumes that are worn as undergarments, those worn over the under garments, costumes resembling skirts, and costumes that divide the actors upper section and the lower section of the body. (Toki) A Shite costume with five layers and outer garment of brocade creates an imposing figure on stage that can be even more imposing when a red or white wig is added. (Toki) A very typical gown style worn by women is the Karaori, which is woven with threads of gold, silver and other colors. Toki) Like most costumes in Noh theater, the use of color is major in determining the characters in the play. (Toki)

Using red in the color scheme of any of the costume is best fit for a young character. (Toki) The most common costume for woman characters is the kinagashi (worn flowing), as well as the most common way of wearing kimono. (Toki) The outer robe over the under robe hanging from the shoulds to the ground and tied at the waist. (Toki) Another costume in Noh theater is the nuihaku (embroidery, foil) that can be used for both male and female characters. Komparu) A short-sleeved robed with a gold-“foil” or a silver- “foil” woven into the costume and “embroidery”, taking on the style of the satin-weave base. (Komparu)

This costume is worn in the style of the koshimaki and includes the aslpects of being draped down from the waist, also resembling the nugi-sage. (Komparu) The nugi-sage (removed and draped) is a costume that will often symbolize a women that is mad. The right sleeve of the outer robe is removed and draped down the back, representing the decaying mind state of the women that is becoming mentally unfit. Komparu) Karaori (Chinese Weave), even though being influenced by the woven style of Chinese clothing is a good representation of Japanese Noh costumes. (Komparu) The robes can be manipulated in order to classify the different characters. It could either include the traditional color red in order to represent the young women characters or can be used without red in order to symbolise the middle-aged and older characters.

In order to create the representation of a women’s skin, resort to the surihaku (foil applique). Komparu) Using the same style of the short-sleeved nuihaku with the gold-foil or silver-foil being woven into the costume with red indicates that the character is a woman. (Komparu) Another critical representation of women characters are the styles of katsura (wigs) supported by the katsura obi (wig bands). (Komparu) The narrow bands are long strands that are tied around the outside of the wig and are left hanging down the actors back. (Komparu) The bands still include the aspects of the gold-foil or silver-foil with the choice of red or not.

The koshi obi (hip bands) can be used for both male and female characters. (Komparu) This resembles the mizu-goromo or is used with nuihaku in the style of koshimaki (draped from the waist). (Komparu) This costume is wrapped around the hips over a three quarter length. The tradtional styles of wigs that are used to indicate women character are the katsura, which is generally tied back or can be lengenthed to be the naga-katsura- (long wig) by attaching the long hair to a small square cloth and tied onto the actors head then rearranged for the performances.

Other styles include the kasshiki-katsura (the religious wig), the midare-bin (untidy or disordered wig), and the uba-katsura (old woman’s wig). (Komparu) For the costume design for Hanjo there are certain aspects from each of the traditional costumes that could come together to create a beautiful costume along with conveying ,the character, Hanjo going mad without her lover, Shosho.

The most fitting costume style would be the mugi-sage (removed and draped), which is generally known for symbolizing the concept of a mad woman with the disordanized and rugged look of the right sleeve of the outer robe slipped of and left to hang down the back of the character. The colors of the robe would include the same aspects of the nuihaku and the surihaku with the silver-foil woven into the fabric and the traditional red to indicate that the character is a young woman.

The headress of Hanjo would include the idare-bin (disheveled tresses) style of wig in order to help convey the slow affect of Hanjo becoming mad without her lover; and the traditional katsura obi (wig band) with a red trim will support the headress itself and the concept of a female character. For props, Hanjo will hold bamboo grass in her hand which symbolizes a mad women. Along with the bamboo grass, Hanjo will hold a fan that will be a representation of Shosho’s fan that she recieved and will be used to be waved more rapidly to symbolize Hanjo’s madness.


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