Zeami | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Zeami Motokiyo (1364-1443) was the father and the greatest actor of the Japanese No theater. With over 200 plays--written under the patronage of a powerful shogun and each increasingly emphasizing the symbolic, spiritual core of drama over the representational--he single-handedly elevated the previously crude folk form into an intricate, stylized aristocratic art. His creative and inner life after he was banished from the court by jealous courtiers is the subject of this 1963 prizewinning play by Masakazu Yamazaki, one of Japan's leading literary figures and a vocal exponent of the Western-influenced Shingeki (new theater) movement. The narrative focuses on Zeami's Zen-like dedication to his craft as evidenced by the relentless education of his disciples in the three principal facets of the No--singing, dancing, and acting. This production by a 50-member troupe of the Institute of Dramatic Arts--which has the kind of reputation in Japan enjoyed here by the New York Shakespeare Company--is being presented for the first time in the U.S. As an unintended irony, the lead role will be assumed by Kohshiro Matsumoto IX, a Kabuki master; Japan's other, younger theatrical tradition, which is better known in the West, the Kabuki is still denigrated in some quarters as a vulgar, licentious relation of the noble No. Performed in Japanese with English subtitles. University of Chicago, October 27 and 28 (Mandel Hall, 5706 S. University, 753-4472). Thursday and Friday, 8 PM. $15-$20.

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