Rare Japanese theatre stage donated to the University
Release Date 11 September 2009
A Japanese Noh stage , one of only two in Western Europe, has been donated to the University of Reading by The Robert H. N. Ho Foundation, a Hong Kong-based foundation dedicated to promoting an understanding of Chinese and Buddhist-related arts in the West.
As one of the most unique styles of classical Asian theatre in the world, Noh theatre dates from at least the fourteenth century and is intimately connected to both Japanese Buddhism (particularly Zen) and Shinto religious practices. Noh plays tend to focus on historical, literary or esoteric figures who return to the stage to seek vengeance or salvation.
The University of Reading's Dr Ashley Thorpe said: "The Department of Film, Theatre & Television has held an interest in Noh for many years and has frequently taught Noh at undergraduate level. We are already the proud owners of six Noh masks. The gift of the stage will enable us to develop our understanding of this unique art form, which has inspired practitioners from all over the world, including W.B. Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, Eugene O'Neill and Peter Brook."
The construction of this particular Noh stage was commissioned by the Ho Foundation. It was manufactured by specialist carpenters in London to coincide with the opening of "The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery of Buddhist Sculpture in Asia" at the V&A Museum. Performances of Noh on the stage, which measures 120 metres square when fully extended, formed the centerpiece of a series of 'Buddhist dances' that were performed at the museum in April 2009.
Following the performances, the Foundation sought a permanent home for the stage and contacted Dr Thorpe to see if arrangements could be made to host the stage at the University. With additional funding, the stage will enable the University to develop a bi-annual festival of Noh which will be the first such festival anywhere in the world.
Dr Thorpe continued: "Noh's deep connection with ritual, its intrinsically non-Naturalistic style, and beautifully carved masks have invigorated Western theatre practice since the early twentieth century. Samuel Beckett was also deeply influenced by the economy of Noh, and the presence of a Noh stage and the Beckett Archive together at Reading will generate all kinds of exciting possibilities. The gift of a Noh stage was an extremely charitable act by the Ho Foundation and I am indebted to them for their generosity.
The University of Reading has recently submitted a planning application for a new purpose-built home for its Department of Film, Theatre & Television. If approved, the Noh stage will be put together in the new building when it opens in Easter 2011.
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