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

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