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Zeami Motokiyo, and . Zeami: Performance Notes

2008, New York: Columbia University Press

Publisher’s Note: Zeami (1363-1443), Japan’s most celebrated actor and playwright, composed more than thirty of the finest plays of no drama. He also wrote a variety of texts on theater and performance that have, until now, been only partially available in English. Zeami: Performance Notes presents the full range of Zeami’s critical thought on this subject, which focused on the aesthetic values of no and its antecedents, the techniques of playwriting, the place of allusion, the training of actors, the importance of patronage, and the relationship between performance and broader intellectual and critical concerns. Spanning over four decades, the texts reflect the essence of Zeami’s instruction under his famous father, the actor Kannami, and the value of his long and challenging career in medieval Japanese theater.
Tom Hare, who has conducted extensive studies of no academically and on stage, begins with a comprehensive introduction that discusses Zeami’s critical importance in Japanese culture. He then incorporates essays on the performance of no in medieval Japan and the remarkable story of the transmission and reproduction of Zeami’s manuscripts over the past six centuries. His eloquent translation is fully annotated and includes Zeami’s diverse and exquisite anthology of dramatic songs, Five Sorts of Singing, presented both in English and in the original Japanese.

Comment: A compilation of writings on performance by the Japanese playwright, actor, and aesthetician, Zeami Motoyiko. His work addresses the principles of nō theater, including dramatic imitation, music, and movement, as well as ideas from Japanese philosophical aesthetics such as yūgen (“dark” or “mysterious”). Zeami also maintains a focus throughout his writings on jo-ha-kyū, a style of movement found in many Japanese arts, including theater, tea ceremony, and martial arts. This text is best used in a course on aesthetics, especially theater and cross-cultural aesthetics.