Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

An Irishman in Japan 

Who knew that William Butler Yeats wrote Japanese Noh plays?

Wednesday, Sep 11 2002
I'd never advise anyone to spend an evening washing down shots of Japanese sake with pints of Guinness. It's fusion, yes, but the thought of it is sickening. Art, however, is a different matter. In fact, the most interesting theatrical concoctions are frequently hybrids of dramatic style and ethnic origin. To this end, Theatre of Yugen -- in tandem with Tokyo's Theatre Nohgaku -- is producing William Butler Yeats' At the Hawk's Well, a play written in Japanese Noh style by the Irish-born Yeats in 1916; it will be prefaced by a classic Kyogen piece called Tied to a Pole. (For those not familiar with the terminology, Noh is a tragic form of Japanese drama, while Kyogen is comedic.)

Though Yeats' verse continues to be widely read, few know him for his plays, and even fewer for his Noh dramas. He was first introduced to the Noh aesthetic by his then personal assistant, Ezra Pound, an aspiring 27-year-old writer who was the recipient of a massive collection of work by American scholar Ernest Fenollosa, an expert on Japanese theater and culture. Pound and Yeats began to study these writings, and Yeats was soon inspired to try his hand at Japanese-style theater, penning four Noh plays during his lifetime. Directed by Richard Emmert, this American premiere of At the Hawk's Well, a metaphorical piece about an old man, a young man, and a woman who finds freedom in discovering that she is a hawk, runs for only two nights in San Francisco before it begins a national tour. Theatre of Yugen serves up diversity in its small theater once again, combining the Irish flair for language with the Japanese art of movement in a unique blend that's worth savoring.

About The Author

Karen Macklin


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"