Japan Society, as part of its Fall 2012/Spring 2013 Performing Arts Season, proudly presents Macbeth, a production of Shakespeare's play directed by and starring internationally acclaimed traditional kyogen actor and one of Japan's most celebrated stage, film and television stars, Mansai Nomura. This production of Macbeth plays two performances only at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street): Saturday, March 23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 24 at 5:00pm.
Shakespeare's chilling tragedy comes to life within a stage set that integrates stunning visual motifs of medieval Japan. Directed by Japan's acclaimed traditional kyogen actor Mansai Nomura who is designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Japanese Government, this Macbeth references the vocalization and masks of Japan's 600-year-old noh and kyogen traditions and melds these elements organically into Shakespeare's 17th-century Western classic. Mansai Nomura's version of Macbeth, which premiered in Tokyo (February 22, 2013), follows his highly acclaimed productions The Kyogen of Errors (based on The Comedy of Errors) and Kuni-nusubito (based on Richard III), weaving Japan's medieval theater tradition into a 21st-century presentation. Macbeth is performed in Japanese with English subtitles.
This production features five actors only, including Mansai Nomura in the title role, joined by celebrated actress Natsuko Akiyama as Lady Macbeth, and Keitoku Takata, Keiji Fukushi and Keita Kobayashi who seamlessly shift roles as the three witches, Duncan, Banquo, Macduff and Fleance. Set Design is by Rumi Matsui, Lighting Design is by Jun Ogasawara, Costume Design is by Sachiko Ito and Sound Design is by Hiroyuki Ozaki. Translation by Shoichiro Kawai.
Noh and kyogen, collectively known as nohgaku, are designated as "Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. While noh is musical in nature and its plays focus on tragic themes and portray symbolic, magical events through music, poetry and dance; kyogen is comic theater depicting daily life through dialogue and mime. To balance the more serious noh with comical kyogen, the two theater forms have been traditionally performed alternately in the same program.
Mansai Nomura II studied under his father Mansaku II, with whom he leads the Mansaku-no-Kai Kyogen Company, and his late grandfather Manzo VI, both designated by the Japanese government as Living National Treasures. He made his stage debut at age three. After graduating from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he majored in traditional noh and kyogen, he founded his own kyogen company, Gozaru-no-za in 1987, which has become one of the most popular traditional performing arts companies in Japan. His repertoire goes far beyond that of traditional kyogen and noh actors. He has played title roles in Greek tragedies as well as Shakespeare's plays, with credits including Oedipus, directed by Yukio Ninagawa and Hamlet, directed by Jonathan Kent He has appeared in hit Japanese movies by notable directors, such as Ran, by Akira Kurosawa, Onmyoji by Yojiro Takita and The Floating Castle (Nobo no Shiro) by Isshin Inudo. Over the past decade, Mansai's career as a director has developed, with works ranging from Western classics to Japanese plays. He continues to challenge himself, merging classic and contemporary, East and West. His directing credits include The Kyogen of Errors (based on The Comedy of Errors), which premiered at London's Globe Theater in 2002 and toured the U.S. (2005 and 2008); Macbeth; Kuni-nusubito (based on Richard III); Yabu no Naka (In the Thicket); Kagamikaja (Mirror Servant); and Atsushi (from the late Atsushi Nakajima's Sangestsuki and Meijinden). For Atsushi, he received an Asahi Performing Arts Award and a Kinokuniya Theater Award in 2006 for his direction. He has received a National Arts Festival New Artist Award and the Ministry of Education's Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists. He has been designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset as a kyogen performer by the Japanese government and has held the title of Artistic Director of the Setagaya Public Theater since 2002.
Also in New York in March 2013, Mansai Nomura performs in SANBASO, divine dance at the Guggenheim Museum Rotunda with a breathtaking Contemporary Stage set and costumes designed by world renowned visual artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, co-presented by Japan Society and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. SANBASO, divine dance takes place on March 28 & 29, in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum's current exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground.