Noh (能 Nō)—derived from the Sino-Japanese word for “skill” or “talent”—is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Developed by Kan’ami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art that is still regularly performed today.
Nō together with Kyōgen is part of Nōgaku theatre.
Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature with a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. Noh integrates masks, costumes and various props in a dance-based performance, requiring highly trained actors and musicians. Emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized conventional gestures while the iconic masks represent the roles such as ghosts, women, children, and the elderly. Written in ancient Japanese language, the text “vividly describes the ordinary people of the twelfth to sixteenth centuries”. (source: Wiki)
All Noh players are men. They have been taught their skills by their fathers. When a woman or girl appears in the drama, a male actor plays her role with a woman mask.
There are three types of Noh players: shite, waki and kyogen. Shite plays the hero or the heroine. He talks, sings and dances. Waki (meaning “Side”) and plays the sidekick of Shite. The Waki usually plays the role of a traveller role. He introduces us into the world in the drama. Kyogen appears in the middle of the drama if it has two parts, and plays the role of the local citizen. He talks to Waki and makes him notice something new or realize what has happened. (source: Wiki)
Kyōgen (狂言, “mad words” or “wild speech”) is a form of traditional Japanese comic theater. It developed alongside Nō, was performed along with Nō as an intermission of sorts between Nō acts on the same stage, and retains close links to Nō in the modern day; therefore, it is sometimes designated Noh-kyōgen. Its contents are nevertheless not at all similar to the formal, symbolic, and solemn Nō theater; kyōgen is a comic form, and its primary goal is to make its audience laugh.
image source: JNTO
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