Aisle Seat

New Noh
In 1968, Japan's first heart transplant was performed. The surgeon was charged with murder, because the heart of the brain-dead fisher was still beating when it was removed from his body. Without heart-death, the spirit of the fisher could not be released from the mortal world. The concept of brain death is still not accepted in Japan, and the 1968 transplant was both the first and last in Japan. Dr. Tomio Tada, an emeritus professor at the University of Tokyo, uses the ancient form of Noh drama to explore the very modern question of death and organ harvesting. Down the Dark Well is at Theater of Yugen, directed by Yuriko Doi.

Doi's first problem was to train local actors. "Noh is such a traditional form," she explains. "In Japan actors and musicians spend their whole lives, from age 3, training in Noh technique. I had to train actors here to do Noh work." And what of the issues of the play? Doi sees Noh as the ideal form. "In Noh plays, there is generally a ghost, who comes back to the world in a disguised form. In the scientific discussion of the heart transplant, the voice of the heart donor was missing. In the play, Dr. Tada brings the fisherman back as a ghost to provide opinion from the donor side." Doi feels that the play will speak to an American audience, despite cultural differences. "American ethicists are worried about advancing technology and the moral concerns that arise from that technology," Doi declares, "but Americans are so afraid of death that they try to avoid thinking about it all. I'm more accepting -- to me, death is natural." Call 621-7978.

It's not too late to bring the kids to Dinosaurus, a way cool shadow-play fantasy at New Conservatory Theater. Matinees are April 27 and May 4. Call 861-8972 for information on school matinees. ... If you'd rather listen to a short story than read it yourself, consider the ongoing "Tuezzday Stories -- ZYZZYVA at The Magic"; actors read stories the last Tuesday of every month, through May. The April 30 reading features tales by John Cheever, Rick Bass, and Sherman Alexie. May 28 features Welsh stories, including Dylan Thomas' incomparable A Child's Christmas in Wales. Admission is free; the shows start at 7 p.m. ... Also free is ACT's symposium on The Cherry Orchard: "The Playwright and the Actor, New Forms and New Methods." The panel includes Anne Bogart and Richard Hornby; it starts at 7 p.m., April 29 at the Geary Theater. ... Finally, the April 28 matinee of Beach Blanket Babylon will be sign-language interpreted. Special tickets are being held for hearing-impaired audience members. TTY users can order tickets through the California Relay System at (800) 735-2929. Tickets may also be ordered by fax: 421-4817.

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By Deborah Peifer

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