“Every time I come to teach kyōgen here at the University of Hawai’i, I am struck by the enthusiastic attitudes of the students.” – Akira Shigeyama
Akira Shigeyama was born in 1952 into the Kyoto-based Shigeyama family of the Ōkura school of kyōgen. He trained under his grandfather Sensaku III, making his stage debut before he was three years old. While maintaining the traditional family art of kyōgen, Akira has also followed in the footsteps of his father, Sennojō II, who was among the first kyōgen actors in the post WWII era to engage in experimental works, collaborating with contemporary artists and working in cross-genre performances. Akira’s work beyond the traditional boundaries began when he formed the NOHO Theatre Group together with American director Jonah Salz in 1981, which has for over 35 years explored ways of fusing noh and kyōgen techniques and spirit with Western texts of Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats, Shakespeare, and others. Akira has performed traditional and experimental works throughout Japan, the US, and several countries in Europe. He has collaborated with opera companies, commedia dell’arte as well as Western avant-garde artists, while also bringing new life into the tradition, as with The Fox and the Alien (Kitsune to Uchūjin, 1978), a new kyōgen play satirizing humanity’s poor caretaking of the earth and its resources. He is also active in reviving kyōgen plays that have fallen from the repertory, such as Negaeri (1983). In addition to a busy performance and teaching schedule, Akira has led kyōgen training for the Traditional Theatre Training Program, a Kyoto-based summer intensive, since 1984. Akira was the senior artist in residence for the 2001-02 and 2006-07 Kyōgen Training, Production and Outreach Programs at UHM. This is his third production with the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.
Dōji Shigeyama first studied under his grandfather, Sennojō II, and later his father, Akira. He debuted in kyōgen at age four as the monkey in The Monkey Quiver (Utsubozaru), and has been a constant presence on the kyōgen stage since. He has performed throughout Japan, and toured the U.S., Russia, and Europe. Like his father and grandfather, Dōji also engages his kyōgen skills beyond the traditional kyōgen borders. Educated in international schools within Japan, he is bilingual in English and Japanese, and has used his linguistic skills to create and perform bilingual kyōgen. In recent years, he made regular appearances on an NHK children’s television program for English education. Dōji works together with poet and friend, Chōri, creating improvised kyōgen-inspired dances performed to Chōri’s spoken word poetry. He also produces an annual program of his own original sketch comedies. In addition to keeping the kyōgen traditional repertory alive, Dōji writes original “21st century kyōgen,” showcased in his annual Marikōji production; and one of his plays, Two Mountain Priests (Futari Yamabushi), is making its English language premiere in the spring 2017 UHM production. Dōji was also an artist in residence for the 2001-02 and 2006-07 Kyōgen Training, Production and Outreach Programs at UHM, and is returning for his third residency.
Hideta Kitazawa is a second-generation woodcarving artist from Tokyo. He began studying under his woodcarver father, Ikkyō Kitazawa, after graduating from university in 1991. Since becoming a full-time independent wood carver and mask maker in 1997, he has exhibited annually in the Tokyo Traditional Crafts Exhibition, and by invitation in Texas and Hawaiʻi in the U.S. His masks are in the collections of the Manzō Nomura kyōgen family, as well as the Rokurō Umewaka and Oshima Noh families. Kitazawa is also an Affiliated Artist with Theatre Nohgaku, an international collective of artists dedicated to the performance of new noh plays in English. Since 2006, Kitazawa began designing original masks for Theatre Nohgaku, the San Francisco-based Theatre of Yugen, and for the Tokyo company, Za-Okina. His masks have been used in traditional and newly written noh and noh-inspired plays performed in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Asia. He has conducted numerous mask-carving demonstrations and workshops throughout the world, including China, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, France, the UK, and the U.S.
“Everyone tackled their woodblocks with such zeal and completed magnificent work. To see each student’s individuality expressed through their masks was a pleasure.” – Hideta Kitazawa