An Irishman in Japan

Who knew that William Butler Yeats wrote Japanese Noh plays?

I'd never advise anyone to spend an evening washing down shots of Japanese sake with pints of Guinness. It's fusion, yes, but the thought of it is sickening. Art, however, is a different matter. In fact, the most interesting theatrical concoctions are frequently hybrids of dramatic style and ethnic origin. To this end, Theatre of Yugen -- in tandem with Tokyo's Theatre Nohgaku -- is producing William Butler Yeats' At the Hawk's Well, a play written in Japanese Noh style by the Irish-born Yeats in 1916; it will be prefaced by a classic Kyogen piece called Tied to a Pole.(For those not familiar with the terminology, Noh is a tragic form of Japanese drama, while Kyogen is comedic.)

Theatre of Yugen presents At the Hawk's Well, 
William Butler Yeats' take on Japanese drama.
Marlin Wagner
Theatre of Yugen presents At the Hawk's Well, William Butler Yeats' take on Japanese drama.


Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14, at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $22.50-25, $50 for a ticket that includes the Friday night fund-raising post-show celebration


USF Presentation Theater (formerly the Gershwin Theater), 2350 Turk (at Masonic), S.F.

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Though Yeats' verse continues to be widely read, few know him for his plays, and even fewer for his Noh dramas. He was first introduced to the Noh aesthetic by his then personal assistant, Ezra Pound, an aspiring 27-year-old writer who was the recipient of a massive collection of work by American scholar Ernest Fenollosa, an expert on Japanese theater and culture. Pound and Yeats began to study these writings, and Yeats was soon inspired to try his hand at Japanese-style theater, penning four Noh plays during his lifetime.Directed by Richard Emmert, this American premiere of At the Hawk's Well, a metaphorical piece about an old man, a young man, and a woman who finds freedom in discovering that she is a hawk, runs for only two nights in San Francisco before it begins a national tour. Theatre of Yugen serves up diversity in its small theater once again, combining the Irish flair for language with the Japanese art of movement in a unique blend that's worth savoring.

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