Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question34 How do you operate the entrance curtain?


The entrance curtain is an important stage prop in itself. It is used as a border between this world and the other world in many plays, and gives a special impression as performers enter and exit. The curtain is manipulated with long bamboo poles held by two people. There are several patterns of opening and closing the curtain, each of which has a particular dramatic effect.

When the curtain opens or shuts as costumed performers pass, it is called “honmaku” (full curtain). When it is rolled up at one side as musicians or Kyōgen actors pass, it is called “katamaku” (one-side curtain). In this case, the operator raises the curtain with his hand. There is another pattern of the curtain operation, "hanmaku" (half curtain), in which the curtain rises once to make the second-half leading actor visible, and then falls and rises again in the full-curtain operation to get him in to continue the play. This staging technique expresses the increase of tension when the actor enters.

It is normal that young members of the troupe are in charge of the curtain operation in order to physically learn the stage development and the tension in the performances. Kōken (stage manager) are responsible for that portion in certain difficult pieces. Manipulation of the curtain seems a simple element, yet it plays an important role in Noh plays, essential to creating dramatic scenes.

(Jul 29, 2008)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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