Sunday, May 22, 2011
Noh Theater, legitimized by Gay Love! Japan 1374
In the beginning Noh Theatre was a lowly common form of entertainment combining crude folk dance, and acrobatics originally called “Sarugaku” which literally meant “monkey music”. But In 1374 it was transformed by the power of gay love when the twelve-year-old actor Zeami performed before the young noble shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, then seventeen. Yoshimitsu was so taken with the beauty and talent of the actor that he became Zeami’s patron and lover. And from this attachment sprang 500 years of shogunal patronage of Noh theater.
And under Yoshimitsu’s guidance Zeami raised the literary level of No theatre from common and lowly to an esoteric and austere art form, and Zeami himself composed its major seminal classics.
Nijo Yoshimoto, the court’s senior statesman, also was greatly moved by Zeami’s talents as can be seen in this surviving letter:
“Should Zeami have time, please bring him over with you once again. The entire day was wonderful and I quite lost my heart. A boy like this is rare- why, look at his linked verse, and his court kickball, not to mention his own particular art! Such a charming manner and such poise! I don’t know where such a marvelous boy can have come from…I should compare him to a profusion of cherry or pear blossoms in the haze of a spring dawn… It’s no surprise that the shogun is so taken with this boy…In spite of myself, I feel as if the flower of the heart still remains somewhere in this fossilized old body of mine.”
Zeami and Ashikaga’s love birthed the legitimization of an art form. Raising it from something common and humble, to one of the finest and highest revered forms of performance ever created by humankind.