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Christina Ramsey

Performance Studies
Dr. Beck
29 March 2016
Matsukaze Play Paper

For my exploration into global theatre before the twentieth century, I decided to look at
the play, Matsukaze. Matsukaze is a piece belonging to the style of Noh theatre. Since ancient
times, it has been one of the most popular pieces of Noh theatre. This particular drama is known
as a piece for autumn. Noh theatre is mainly a dance-based form of theatre, incorporating the
use of music, masks, and props to tell the story. While this particular play is relatively short when
reading it, the performance of it would most likely take at least two to three times as long.
As many Noh plays do, this piece includes supernatural characters. In this instance, the
supernatural characters are the ghosts of divers, Murasame and Matsukaze. A traveling monk
encounters their grave and recites prayer for them. Then, searching for lodging, he comes across
two sisters and asks them to house him for the night. They agree and eventually tell him that they
are the ghosts of Murasame and Matsukaze, who were loved by Yukihira. While they tell the
story of their love, Matsukaze becomes crazed and embraces the pine tree, believing that it is
Yukihira. After her sister tries to calm her down, they disappear into the monks dream. All that is
left of them is the sound of Murasames voice, passing in the breeze.
As you can probably tell from the synopsis, this piece relies heavily on the visual and
musical aspects of Noh theatre. Everything about this piece should be pleasing to the eye and ear.
Even the play itself reads almost like poetry, filled with imagery and metaphor. All of these

elements work together to create the beauty of Noh theatre. However, I would like to specifically
focus on the use of movement for this particular piece.
If you are at all familiar with Noh, it relies heavily on dance and very slow, elegant
movement to tell the story. Because of this, Noh actors begin training at a very young age for
years before they perform. My only experience watching Noh theatre came from watching
Sound of a Voice in the Studio Theatre this semester. Because of this, I can attempt to visualize
Matsukaze and the delicate movement it requires.
From what I have seen, the movement in Noh theatre consists of bending the knees and
walking so as to appear gliding. The feet barely pick up off of the floor, and the rest of the body
does not move while walking. Gestures are also very important in Noh theatre. Hand gestures are
delicate and flow from the arm.
For Matsukaze, these movements are what illustrate the fact that the two sisters are
ghosts. I imagine that their hand gestures and movement are very graceful and flowing, so as to
appear spirit-like. This movement would have to be different from the monk, to set the two types
of characters apart.
This play is definitely a piece that would have to be seen rather than read. While the
language is beautiful, the dance and musical aspect is absolutely necessary to truly grasp the
style. As an American theatre artist, this style of theatre really widens my definition of what
theatre is. I had never read a play like this or seen a style of theatre like Noh before. What struck
me was how easy the translation was to follow. I assumed that, because it is a Japanese art form,
I would have difficulty understanding it, but I grasped the material and marveled at the
beautifully written language. This is definitely a play that I would like to see performed,

especially in America. I think an audience would benefit greatly from observing a piece/style of
theatre like this.