Performing Arts

(03/17/2001)Please check the REPORT of the first performance of WINGS OF LOVE - a Christian Noh Drama, by Dr. Yuko Yuasa


On the publication of WINGS OF LOVE and its author

Professor emeritus, Doshisha University and Professor, Seiwa College.

On the 170th anniversary of Ryokan's passing an international symposium on Ryokan is held in Niigata, his birthplace. This is the occasion of the first performance of a Noh drama, "WINGS OF LOVE, a Story of Ryokan, and St. Francis of Assisi, told by Teishinni and St.Chiara," created by Dr. YUASA Yuko.
As an aftermath of the economic crisis, dark clouds covered the country and people were disheartened. In this atmosphere the publication of my book "Ryokan and Christ" was celebrated in Niigata, supported by Mr. YAGIMOTO Yuji, the director of Kokodo Publishing Company. I suggested that it would be high time to send out a bright message from Japan, saying "What about to hold an international symposium on Ryokan, as a powerful and positive message from Niigata?" The response resulted in the effort of Zenkoku Ryokan Kai (the National Ryokan Society) and the cooperation of Niigata City, with the fruit of "Ryokan Festival" commemorating the 170th anniversary of his passing.
On the first day of the festival, "WINGS OF LOVE, a Story of Ryokan and St. Francis of Assisi" was performed. Without exaggeration it was an epoch-making event and a historical endeavor.
An important element for the realization of this event was the beautiful and correct Noh stage in the Niigata-City Performing Arts Center, already completed under the leadership of Mr. HASEGAWA Yoshiaki, the Mayor of Niigata, a keen promotor of art and culture.
The author of "WINGS OF LOVE," YUASA Yuko, a graduate of the International Christian University, continued her biblical studies and theology at Edinburgh University. Completing the mother's tasks of child-rearing, she was enrolled in Doshisha University Graduate School of Theology, specializing in Christianity and Culture. She received her Master's degree with honor by her thesis on Christianity and Noh drama. Her further pursuit in the subject with feminist perspective in U.S. A. resulted in her doctorate degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, CA.
What we must not forget is her family background. Her husband Dr. YUASA Yo was my classmate in Greek at the theological department of Doshisha University. Educated at the International Christian University and Amherst College, he received his medical training at the Edinburgh University where he was awarded his medical degree. Now he is working as a doctor in the international field and on the advisory committee of the World Health Organization. His overseas works in various countries offer Yuko chances to see the world. This must be a source of inspiration for her cross-cultural creation. Yo's father. Dr. YUASA Hachiro served as a president of Doshisha, and the first president of the International Christian University. An entomologist and educator, he also appreciated and promoted the cause of Mingei, the folk art. This atmosphere must have been a source of stimuli for her works.
Now the biblical studies on one hand, and the research in the history and texts of Noh drama on another. Dr. YUASA Yuko started creating new Noh dramas and staging their performance. The first phase was a small work based on Jo Neesima poem titled "Truth blossoms as Plum blossoms," which was performed by young artists. In 1995 Kansai Seminar House' Noh stage saw her "Magdalene Dances in Crimson," a Noh drama about the first human encounter with resurrected Jesus in a garden. "Consider the Lilies of the Field" was the next resonance between the sermon on the mount and a Haiku by Basho, staged in the following year. Then the second phase came with the production of Hannya Miriam." Miriam is the sister of Moses, the leader of the Exodus. Her agony and joy are the theme of this drama, which serves as the fountainhead of works with biblical themes. "Hannya Miriam" was performed at the celebration of the restoration of "Hokyoden," a historically important Noh stage at the Kansai Seminar House, which was used in commemoration of Hideyoshi's 300th anniversary. On this occasion Mr. KANZE Hideo lectured on "Cross-cultural exchange and Noh drama." He gave a blessing, with his dance of auspicious "Takasago" on the newly restored Noh stage.
Even more, he led the chorus of "Hannya Miriam," and encouraged all. It was an unforgettable episode dear to our heart.
The author's activities have encompassed the world from Bali to Zimbabwe, Korea, USA, Switzerland, Germany and Britain through her network of ecumenical studies and feminist theology. She has introduced her theological method in various workshops and lectures, and has staged her works based on a resonance between the Noh drama and the Biblical message, inspiring people of many lands, with biblical and non-biblical cultures.
Recently at the annual Maple Festival of the Kansai Seminar House she continuously creates and stages her works such as "Magnificat, Love Song between the Heaven and the Earth (1998)" and "Let There Be Light! (1999)." With the cooperation of the talented player Nobushige and his troupe, the KAWAMURA Noh Stage Company, a holder of precious tradition and caliber led by KAWAMURA Teiji, a national treasure, the performances are well received by the general public.


Before the drama begins here are some hints for the enjoyment.
There are four points;
Who and Why "Ryokan and St. Francis of Assisi?"
Who and Why "Teishinni and St.Chiara?"
What and Why "Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene)?" and finally
"Why the dialogue now?"

Who and Why "Ryokan and St.Francis of Assisi?"
Ryokan (1758~1831), a Zen priest, preached about Buddha's love while begging and playing with children among birds and flowers. His poems and calligraphy have been treasured down through the ages.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181~1226) traveled even to the crusaders' enemy to preach Christ's love. Both men led lives of poverty while helping all they met, speaking of peace between peoples, birds, animals, plants, water, rocks and the whole nature.

Who and Why "Teishinni and St.Chiara?"
Through Eros, as well as other forms of love, God speaks to us. Teishinni and St. Chiara, both nuns, held the light of love in their hearts for the two saints. The reciprocal love of the two men gave depth and hight to the life of all. The stories told by these special nuns ring with truth because of love.

What and Why "Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene)?"
In the drama form "Mugen-Noh" created by Zeami (14th century), ghosts of love and battles' losers appear. Their mortifying sorrow and disappointment do not allow them silent Their ardent desire to tell their stories has formed a device of powerful communication.
Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene) has adapted their skill and the mysterious method.

Why the dialogue now?
The key for life in the new century will be the coexistence of different culture's values.
The common message of the saints from the east and the west, namely eco-justice, peace and love, gives us a hope of having a meaningful dialogue.



Francis of Assisi (1181~1226)
Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, Christian saint and founder of the Franciscans. As a rich merchant's son with a merry-making disposition he dreamed about earthly glory in his youth. But imprisoned in Perusia as a defeated warrior, he returned his life's direction. He established an order based on begging, believing that poverty would enhance dependence on God (1210). He went to Egypt with the crusaders trying to stop the war (1219). 1224 is the year of his stigma experience (receiving on his body Christ's stigma on the cross). His Canticle of Brother Sun (1225~6), praise Christ's Resurrection that has realized the salvation of humankind and nature. He was canonized in 1228. He was designated as the patron saint of ecology in 1979.

Chiara of Assisi (1193~1253)
Chiara Offreduccio di Bernardino was born in a rich house of nobility class in the days of civil wars and the Crusaders. In 1211 she met Francisco who had completed repairing the church of St. Damiano. In 1212 she fled from her feudal household and became a nun by the hand of Francisco. She was made an abbess and received a "right of poverty" from the Pope Innocent III in 1215. She led an Order of the Poor based on Francis' principles.
After his death she kept the Order according to his' ideal; dependence on God alone. She was canonized in 1255. Her spirit continues to live in 15 groups of her name.

Ryokan (1758~1831)
As a son of leading family who had a position similar to a mayor, at Izumozaki in present Niigata Prefecture, Eizo (Ryokan's childhood name) experienced some frustration of youth and showed little interest in power and wealth. At the age of 22 he followed Kokusen, a Zen priest, to Entsuji Temple in Okayama. Though given a license to hold a head priest's post, he chose a life of begging rather than a job in a temple. He lived a life of compassion and tolerance by the rigorous practice of solitude, meditation and poverty. His poems and calligraphy as well as his way of living filled with love of children and nature are treasured by people of many lands.

Teishinni (1798~1873)
A daughter of a Samurai in Nagaoka, in present Niigata Prefecture, Masu (her secular name, Teishinni being her religious name), spent her younger days as a book-lover with her stepmother. Divorced after 5 years of childless marriage, she became a nun at the age of 23. Working at a small temple of Emmado, Teishinni kept studying about Ryokan. In 1828 Teishinni (30) finally met Ryokan (70) and remained friend/disciple until his passing. In her "Dew of Lotus" she relays to us Ryokan's poems and the poetry of the two souls who lived in the Buddha's love.

(taken from the book WINGS OF LOVE by YUASA Yuko)



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