Monday, June 20, 2011


Actors in Noh plays often wear masks, like the one over there at the top right of the Noh Garden home page. They are beautiful and, as you might imagine, expensive. For our film we are using makeup derived from Japanese Kabuki Theater, producing a white face with some red and black highlights, as you see here.
The effect will be mask-like. Last Saturday, we traveled to the home of Laurence Kominz, director of the Portland State University Center for Japanese Studies to get a lesson from him in applying Kabuki makeup, which begins with a beeswax base. Watery white is brushed over and then red highlights at the tips of the eyes, as you see, are added. We will mask the actresses' real eyebrows and paint in new brows higher up on the forehead, as is customary. The eyebrows are first red and then covered (but not completely) in black. Lips are painted red. Although we are not trying to create a replica of Noh, we want to create the effect of Noh: actors will not display much facial expression. They are not, in a sense, acting. Rather, they are ritual vehicles for the story's voice. They move in mythic time and speak in unnatural rhythms, move with stylized, gliding steps. Oddly enough, using Kabuki-style makeup will help us achieve that end. Although this style does not have anything to do with Christianity or Christian story telling, it is similar to what Greek drama might have looked and sounded like. And there is a fairly direct line from Greek drama to western theater by way of the ritual of the Mass.

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