Shakespeare Meets Japanese Theater in Kyogen of Errors
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The last date listed for Kyogen of Errors was Thursday June 2, 2005 / 8:00pm.
Currently at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
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Directed by and starring Mansai Nomura (Mansaku’s son and one of Japan’s most famous young artists), the setting of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is changed: Syracuse becomes SHIRAKUSA and Ephesus becomes KUROKUSA. There are some minor cuts, but virtually all the major scenes in Comedy of Errors are reproduced in the Kyogen version. The principal differences are in the place and character names. The Italian place name Syracusa (Syracuse in Shakespeare’s play) closely resembles the Japanese Shirakusa, itself meaning White Grass, and hereafter known as White Island. Given that Syracusa becomes Shirakusa, so Ephesus — the setting of Shakespeare’s play — becomes Kurokusa (Black Grass or Black Island). Even more than in Shakespeare’s play, the atmosphere in the Kyogen Black Island during the early, festival scenes, is one of evil fascination and decadent illusion. Conversely, Shakespeare’s Mediterranean Sea is downsized in the Kyogen plan to become the Seto-naikai — a sea with many islands in the western part of Japan.
Antipholus is re-baptized Ishinosuke, while Dromio becomes Taro-kaja the custo mary name of a Harlequin clown in traditional Kyogen. During the performance, the White Island twins exit and enter only through a white curtain covering the lift-hand door, while their Black Island counterparts (played by the same actors) use a black one on the audience’s right. To clarify any confusion, the actors only wear masks when the characters on stage include both the White Islander(s) and the Black Islander(s). During the prologue, a hooded man, the Lord of Misrule, invites the audience to join in chanting the word Ya-ya-koshi-ya, meaning “How complicated!”