Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Noh Garden DVD Is Finished!

All right. It took me longer than I thought it would to finish the DVD of "Noh Garden," but it is now done. We had a cast/crew viewing party last Friday, July 27, at the home of Matthew Smith, the music director. A number of guests also showed up. In the next month, I will be sending copies of the DVD to potential producers and others interested in working with me on this project. Those of you who contributed to the making of the film will receive your copies at the end of the month of August. Thanks again for your support.

I am looking for other composers to work with me on the remaining four plays. If you are interested, let me know ( Also, let me know if you'd like to read any of the other four scripts and help locate a production venue for the plays. I am looking to put these on stage, not produce another film. The DVD is to help potential partners visualize what I have in mind.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The DVD for Noh Garden is basically done--a few tweaks to go. I'll be sending copies to subscribers in the (merry) month of May. Meanwhile, here's a brief trailer:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

DVD Preview

After too many months, the production team for Noh Garden reviewed the rough cut of the DVD last night and agreed it is about ready to go. We have another day's worth of touchup editing to do. I hope to have it finished by about March 21. Some of you who have been following this project were kind enough to help us when we needed funds last summer for the filming. You will be receiving a copy of the DVD around April 1.

This is only the beginning of an experiment in creating a western form of Noh, based on Christian myth. Plans are underway to expand the project in exciting new directions. Watch this space for updates as we move ahead.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/11 Performance

The choir of St. Stephen's Episcopal Parish performed a choral version of Noh Garden on September 11, 2011, in memory of those who died in the attacks of 9/11 ten years ago. The lead singers were Andy McQuery as Jesus, Erin Walker as Mary Magdalene, Rebecca Kelley as Martha, and Arne Hartmann as Peter. Matthew Smith, music director for the parish, led the choir. Here are some excerpts from the performance.

Editing of the film we shot this summer will begin in October, when funds become available. We still welcome contributions from those interested in helping make Noh Garden and The Gospel According to Noh a reality.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


There will be a choral performance of Noh Garden September 11, 2011, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Parish, SW Clay and 13th, Portland, Oregon. The singers and chorus (augmented with other members of the St. Stephen's choir) will be presenting just the words and music of the work, under the direction of Matthew Smith, in memory of those who died on September 11, 2011. The performance is part of the Sunday worship, which begins at 10 AM. It will run about 25 minutes, replacing the sermon and a choir anthem. This rehearsal clip of Andy McQuery, who sings the role of Jesus, and Erin Walker, who plays Mary Magdalene, hints at the beauty of this music. There is no admission fee.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's Next

Noh Garden is a one of five Noh dramas by Ken Arnold that are intended to be performed or screened in sequence, either in a film or on stage. It is the first to be scored with original music (by Joan McMillen) and produced. The entire project is titled, for now, The Gospel According to Noh. Each of the pieces is based on a part of the Christian myth, just as traditional Noh is based on Buddhist stories. They mix spoken dialog with sung and, taken together, might be thought of as a Noh opera.

I will be screening Noh Garden as soon as the editing is completed and we find a suitable venue, probably not before 2012, however. One option is Headwaters Theatre in Portland (worth checking out anyway). I am also looking for interested partners to help develop the entire project.

The Gospel According to Noh consists of five pieces: Woman at the Well, Lazarus, Noh Garden, The Twin, and Emmaus. Each adapts a traditional biblical story, using movement and music, through a lens of what's often called the inner tradition of Christianity--that is, a more mystical, less "historical" interpretation. Woman at the Well, for example, which retells a story of Jesus meeting a woman at a village well who is clearly of "ill repute," is set in a strip club. The Stranger (Jesus figure) enters the club, which serves breakfast to patrons who come in the morning to watch strippers. He tells her, as Jesus tells the woman at the well in the biblical story, that she has had many lovers, including the bouncer in the club. Here's an excerpt that shows how these stories are adapted:

Woman: You're right about the men, five of them husbands and a bunch more passing through my bedroom. Like this lug. I thought one of them would make me whole or just more myself, but I kept losing track of me. Someone, I think, is out there who can bring me peace.
Stranger: I can.
Woman: Oh, great, another charmer. Well, you're not getting into my pants, even though I have to admit I think you're nice to look at. Maybe a quickie wouldn't kill us. How about a lap dance? On the house? And then we'll see.
Stranger: The flesh is doorway to the spirit. We begin where we are, in suffering or in anger, in joy or even ecstasy. It isn't that you have to leave your flesh behind, cease being human, but that flesh is enlightened by the spirit. I understand your pain. It's why I'm here.
Woman: Do you want the lap dance or not? A lot of guys, you know, would kill for a freebie. I'm not cheap.
Stranger: You are a pearl of great price.
Chorus: [Sung] I know that pearl.
             I've seen it.
             But this is interesting.
             She is flesh and he
             is flesh and yet they both
             begin to fade, like
             objects in a fog
             or faces in twilight.
             Nothing's really gone
             but nothing's as it was.
             These thoughts are not
             what I expect to think.
             Perhaps the eggs and
             beer bring on
             It's time for me to go.
             Business calls.

Well, stay tuned

Friday, July 29, 2011


It has been two weeks since the last post on this blog. The problem has been my (Ken's) eyesight, not the lack of progress on the film, Noh Garden. In fact, we wrapped the film Wednesday night, July 27, at about 9:30, following a long day that began with a scene shot just after noon at Elk Rock Garden, Bishop's Close, out on the Willamette River. The final scenes included the concluding dance, which we choreographed and shot first. That took an hour. We then had to pick up leftovers from the previous three weeks and retape a scene that was compromised by some digital corruption. We got it all done. The wrap party began before we finished the final two scenes and continued to about 11 PM. I now have about three-and-a-half hours of tape to edit down to forty or so minutes of film. This will take awhile. Fortunately, Jennifer Thomas, who handled sound for the shoot (and helped me pull focus when my eyes wouldn't work), will assist with editing. It will still take us deep into the fall before we have a DVD.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this has been a collaborative project from the beginning, and the nature of that collaboration is most apparent in the work of the chorus. Matt Smith served as music director for the project, and Joan McMillen, the composer, worked with him to direct at times. Here is a clip from our final night of shooting that shows how this collaboration worked. The discussion focuses on putting the chorus together with the dance in the film's last scene. The off-camera voice is mine. This clip also hints at the quality of music and voice in the production.