Saturday, June 25, 2011


One scene in Noh Garden focuses on a gardener, who is a comic character in the Japanese tradition of Kyogen--humorous plays about common folk (not usually inserted into Noh, however). He is proud of being an olive grower and takes pains to explain the process.

"I've worked here all my life, in this same garden, since I was a boy and my father taught me horticulture, especially the difficult work of olive trees. You can't believe how much you have to know just to make a tree produce an olive."

He is a bore. Of course, his real subject is what he calls an "irritant preacher" who was executed and buried in his garden. This injection of a "realistic" figure into our abstract drama is somewhat unusual. To emphasize his realism, I decided to film part of his scene in a real (instead of a Noh) garden. Yesterday, Joyce Lew and I went to the Elk Rock Garden at the Bishop's Close (HQ for the Episcopal Church in Oregon) to scout a location (a beautiful place to visit, along the Willamette). There are no olive trees in this garden (I asked the head gardener), but after roaming the grounds we found a spot that is rocky and dry--and a tree that could pass for an olive if we shoot it in low light. This image here is an olive grove but you can see how other trees might pass.

One of the advantages of filming Noh Garden is that we can mix a stage presentation with film locations in the natural world, as we plan to do with this scene. It begins in the "olive grove" but ends on the stage when Mary Magdalene encounters the gardener and realizes that the man she met earlier was not a gardener but the risen Christ. She sings her part of the conversation; he stumbles over spoken words in the presence of this spirit being. He leaves in confusion, warning her that the garden is too dangerous for a woman.

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