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Between the Stones - Education & Outreach: ‘Getting to Noh’ Events

Noh is classical Japanese theatre that combines elements of dance, drama, music and poetry into one highly aesthetic form of art that has been performed continuously for over 650 years. 

A common response to noh from non-Japanese, echoed by many Japanese, is that they do not understand noh. Our vision is not only to help others understand the wonderful art of noh, and how it has been preserved and continuously performed for the past six centuries, but also to highlight that it is a living art form that serves to reflect contemporary societies worldwide. English language noh, developed over the last 40 years, has given particular focus to the latter while using the traditions that have been handed down over the centuries in Japan.

Our project aims also to reach a wide range of people. The 'Getting to Noh' educational and outreach programme of activities runs through the phases of the project and parallel to the development of the new noh. We hope it will enable and contribute to further discussion, and provide an up-close understanding of noh. 

Events held in 2018 and 2019 are also a precursor to the performance tour being planned for 2020 as part of the Japan Season of Culture in the UK and Japan.

Below are all the events we have undertaken to date as part of the 'Getting to Noh from Page to Stage' project.

We are delighted to be part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture and to encourage others to enjoy the art of noh through our work.


Japan Season of Culture

Completed Phase 1 & 2 Events:

16 March 2019 | Japanese Garden Society Midlands Region Talk | Time 1200 | (Public Event) Birmingham Botanical Gardens

It was wonderful to share our work with so many gardeners and other enthusiasts of Japanese arts and culture in a setting that looked onto a Japanese Garden!

I just wanted to write and say thank you for coming to speak to us on Saturday. I hope you enjoyed the day, I know that our members did. At lunch time I spoke to a couple who said that they’d never been interested in noh but you managed to keep them interested the whole way through! And another who said that they thought listening to your talk should be mandatory before watching any noh performance. Actually, I agree!
— Katie Croft, Japanese Garden Society

10 February 2019 | ARTA Paris | 5pm-6.30pm (Public Event)

Performance Demonstration talk - staging Between the Stones. Venue: Arta, Association de Recherche des Traditions de l'acteur. Cartoucherie de Vincennes, Route du Champ de Manoeuvre, 75012 Paris, France

We very much enjoyed our time with ARTA. After the workshop the team had the wonderful opportunity to have a meeting with Ariane Mnouchkine, founder of Théâtre du Soleil and Vice-President of ARTA, at Théâtre du Soleil which is just a stone's throw from ARTA!

We look forward to working again with ARTA in future.

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8 February 2019 | Mill Theatre Dublin | 7.30pm (Public Event)

(Phase 2) Performance Demonstration and talk - staging Between the Stones. Venue: Mill Theatre, Dublin, Ireland

A huge thanks to the Ireland Japan Association and Mill Theatre staff, especially Manager Kate Canning, for all their efforts. On the night more than 150 people turned up in the bad weather to the presentation event. There were a number of questions at the end of the presentation. A lot of interest in understanding noh and the new piece had been generated judging by the number of people who stayed behind to ask further questions and to pass on their thanks to the team! We are very grateful to them all for their interest and to Kate for the kind invitation!


7 February | Performance Workshop for 180 Coventry Young Ambassadors from five Coventry Primary Schools

Thank you so much for all your hard work involving us in the Noh project and for giving us such fantastic opportunities.
Firstly on behalf of myself and all the schools, thank you very much for inviting us to the Embassy event. It was a great honour to attend and we were thrilled at how interested everyone was in our peace poems.

Secondly, many, many thanks to you, Kinue and Richard for coming up to Coventry especially when you had such a busy schedule. The workshop with the pupils was absolutely fantastic. I had been curious to see the children’s reaction to Noh and they were completely mesmerised. It was something so different to anything they have experienced before. I think that they will always remember the experience. In our busy lives as educators we sometimes need to stand back and let the children experience something totally different.

We are very excited about the next phase of our project and are meeting in a couple of weeks to plan how we are going to develop the travel songs. I’ll keep you informed of our plans. I’ll also start working with Afton on the gardens project so that it is ready for the summer.

Please pass on our sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Oshima family and Richard.
— — Rebecca Bollands, Deputy Head Teacher, Howes Primary School
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6 February 2019 | The Embassy of Japan London | 6pm-8.30pm (Invitation only)

(Phase 2) Performance Demonstration talk - staging Between the Stones. Venue: Embassy of Japan, London

The creative team were invited to give a Phase 2 Presentation Event at the Embassy for Japan in London. The event was opened by Minister Shinichi Iida, and was followed by a performance demonstration by Teruhisa and Kinue Oshima and Richard Emmert. Then, British Actor, Simon Callow, who had very kindly taken the evening off from intensive rehearsals for his current show, read the then draft script of the new contemporary noh ‘Between the Stones’ beautifully assisted at the end by young Clementine Laikin. The reading was followed by a short demonstration of the ‘kuse’ section of the new noh by Kinue Oshima in full costume and mask, with Teruhisa and Rick both singing for the Chorus in English.


An illuminating + brilliant event

Great show!

I believe very passionately that events of this kind greatly inspire and encourage human beings to learn and discover more about the beauty, history and culture of this wondrous world we live in

Wonderful evening!
— — Comments forwarded by the staff of the Embassy!
I thought the various elements came together very well and it was a pleasure to hear and see your moving text rendered so beautifully.

The whole project is coming together so well and we are delighted to have been able to offer some support. The education programme is exemplary. Chapeaux!

Kind regards


p.s. how wonderful to see the Embassy Ballroom so full - and such an attentive audience!
— — Brendan Griggs Chief Executive The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
It was a privilege to be at the Embassy of Japan in London for the demonstration and performance evening which was a central part of Phase 2 of the Between the Stones project.
We saw Kinue and Teruhisa Oshima, working with Richard Emmert, give us a gripping demonstration of some noh techniques. We were spellbound as Simon Callow read the whole of the developing text of Between the Stones. And finally we had a first ever taste of what the work will look and sound like when it is put on stage, as the three performers gave us the world premiere of a scene which they had been working on together in London.
Those of us who have been following the project since its first days could not have been more thrilled to see and feel its impact. Our warmest thanks are due to the Embassy and to the sponsors for enabling this event to take place, as a key step towards making a reality of this exciting project.
— — Nick Sanders
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5 February 2019 | The British Library | 7pm-8.30pm (Public Event)

(Phase 2) Performance Demonstration talk - staging Between the Stones. Venue: the British Library, London

Dear Jannette,

I just wanted to send you a note to thank you, Rick and the Oshimas for a wonderful event last night and to wish you ‘good luck’ for tonight!
— — Hamish Todd, Head of East Asian Collections, The British Library
Thank you so much for inviting me to the moving Between the Stones Phase 2 event at the British Library. It was a great pleasure to be present at the first public performance of the play and to witness how beautifully it has developed since I heard the first reading some eighteen months ago. It was also a great privilege to be taught a few of the fundamentals of Noh by two members of a great Noh dynasty. The combination of your introduction to Noh, the demonstrations by the Oshimas translated so aptly by Rick, your reading of your play, and then finally the dance in the magnificent Noh kimono did much to enrich my understanding and enjoyment of Noh. Good luck with Phase 3. Phase 2 already stands as a memorable achievement in its own right.
— — Lesley Hayman

2 February 2019 | Guildhall School of Music & Drama | 10am-1pm (Student workshop)

Introductory Talk and Performance Workshop for BA Acting Students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.

The students worked on basic kata (movement patterns) and utai (chant) as well as some drum call patterns. They made good progress given the amount of time available and appeared to understand and benefit a great deal from the three-hour workshop. Dr Kenneth Rea who worked with us to arrange this workshop for the students wrote:

Dear Jannette,

I want to thank you and your team most sincerely for the wonderful Noh workshop that you ran for our Guildhall students last Saturday. I had hoped that my students would gain an understanding of the discipline, presence and concentration of Noh actors, and the workshop delivered all of that brilliantly. For the students it was an inspiring event that, I’m sure they will draw on for many years to come.
— — Dr Kenneth Rea
Comments from three students:

Hi Ken,
Just wanted to say I appreciated the workshop it was a great opportunity to learn and experience a skilled Japanese art form. I took away many things from that workshop but one thing I want to point out is how technical and kind of physically tiring it was to have stage presence which I want to bring to my work.

Dear Ken,
Yesterday’s workshop was lovely and a privilege. Thank you once again for always getting the best for us.

Hi Ken,
It was so wonderful to watch the Noh actors perform and be welcomed to join in and learn from their process. I especially loved the dance/choreography we were taught as it helped me centre and focus my energy and concentration.
— — Comments from students: Emanuel, Chirag and Lucy

East 15 student project | 22-25 January 2019

Lecture & student project work related to writing for noh. BA World Performance students, East 15 Acting School, University of Essex. (See also the work undertaken last year associated with the Noh time like the present... project in the project report.)

I was astonished at what truly passionate, clear and moving work Jannette was able to draw from my World Performance students in her project on Noh: From Page to Stage. As both a scholar and lover of Noh I wanted my students to be able to engage with this exceptional art form, but I worried that the challenges of grasping both the Noh aesthetic and the structure of Noh plays might be more than could be accomplished in just a few days. However, Jannette’s careful management of the tasks required provided the students with the tools they needed to create some marvellous pieces that used Noh and their own ideas and experiences to create six exceptional poetic performances. I hope that we can repeat the project with more time that will allow the students to go even further. The project has won over this group to Noh and many want to go on to pursue deeper study of the form, while others are finding it a useful tool in their own creative work as playwrights and theatre-makers.
— — Dr Margaret Coldiron, Deputy Head, BA World Performance
Q: Which aspects of the Getting to Noh project made the greatest impression on you and why?

Student response1: The reading of Jannette’s poetry as it was very emotionally captivating and it made me connect to Noh more as I could actually enjoy the poetic side of it through language accessible to me. Also, the project was very well structured, consequently the whole process was very easy to follow.
Student response 2: The writing of the script - I was unfamiliar with how they were meant to be formatted (for example, the journey song maps out key geographical points), so it was interesting to learn how these were created. The poetry that can come out of this is quite inspiring.
Student response 3: The Jo-Ha-Kyu structure is powerful in creating and sustaining action and has also been useful in other modules such as playwriting.

Q: What aspects of the project development have you most enjoyed and why?

Student response 1: The part in which the story and poetry were created. In a fairly short time and by use of “deadlines” the groups managed to come up with a story quite quickly which allowed us plenty of time trying to fit the story into the Noh form which I found very interesting and enjoyable. Getting to know the form and trying to understand the place of the characters within the form gave me a new perspective of the function of characters within a story. Also, the main elements of jo-ha-kyu and less is more, although they are very universal concepts were not as prominent in my thinking while creating new works as they are now. Having worked with these concepts and purposely trying to use these concepts in the pieces we were making, re-introduced them in my mind which will be definitely helpful for future creations.
Student response 2: Adding music to our poems was interesting because it looked at how music could support the text in setting the scene or creating an atmosphere.
Students response 3: I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with a concept for a Noh piece based around the theme of loss, and then creating a touching story about innocence and childhood. Writing a travel song for this story was an enjoyable process, as I liked researching the geography of our chosen location and intertwining it with the poetry.

Q: What areas of learning presented the greatest challenge and what did you learn by working through the challenge?

Student response 1: Bringing page to stage was definitely the hardest part of the whole process. The main obstacle was trying to figure out how much of the visual Noh aspects we were going to use. What we learned, however, and this was initiated by the fact that we did not learn the Noh way of singing nor the very specific movements, is that by taking inspiration from the way of staging or use of space and artists we could fill this ‘empty’ form or silhouette and paint it in ourselves using our own skills.
Student response 2: I found that creating the narrative of the complete Noh play, as a means to better understand the poem we were writing, very challenging because I felt that the conventions we had to stick were not familiar to us. However, in the long run I feel pushing through this challenge lead to solid narratives with action instead of merely emotion were created.
Student response 3: The biggest challenge was trying to put the song/story on its feet due to the amount of time we were given, but through this I learned not to try and overcomplicate things and keep it simple, especially when given a short time-frame.

Q: Do you feel you will be able to use any of this new learning in some way in the future? If possible, can you give some examples?

Student response 1: Definitely. The concepts Jo-ha-kyu and less is more are now one of the first thoughts I have when creating new works, especially when problems arise, they seem to help push the process forward again. Also the idea that a form is empty and with the understanding that one can fill it in themselves, is very useful as it gives you beacons or boundaries which will keep your feet on the ground as it were, it gives the creation a certain direction or grounding, while in the meantime recognizing the freedom of the space between gives you endless possibilities of creating without being completely lost. In general I think that is something useful to remember, it gives you guidance and support through your journey of ideas.
Student response 2: Adding music to our poems was interesting because it looked at how music could support the text in setting the scene or creating an atmosphere.
Student response 3: Writing poetry is not something I have a lot of experience in, so this project was a chance for me to explore outside my comfort zone. The aforementioned geography research and combining with song was a great experience, so this is definitely something I may try again in future.
— — Three examples of anonymous student feedback

2018 Events

15 December 2018 | 2pm-3:30pm (Public Event)
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones. Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Presenters: Jannette Cheong, Nick Sanders, Henrietta Heald

4 December 2018 | 7:15pm-8:45pm (Public Event)
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones. The British Library, London

8-16 November 2018 | The Coventry Young Ambassadors’ ‘Peace Trees’ Exhibition, Coventry Cathedral. 180 peace poem furin (wind chimes) created by five Coventry Primary Schools are on display at Coventry Cathedral during the week marking Armistice Day, 100 years on... The peace poem exhibition is inspired by Between the Stones, but the artwork of both the wind chimes and tanzaku poem cards have all been created by the children. Thanks goes to John Lewis & Partners who have donated the three of the ‘peace’ trees.

27 October 2018 | 2:30pm-4:30pm (Public Event)
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones,
International House, Manchester. Organised by the Japan Society Northwest. Presenter: Jannette Cheong

24 October 2018 | 5-7pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk, Reading of Between the Stones and discussion
SOAS-Japan Research Centre: Seminar Series, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. Presenters: Jannette Cheong, David Hughes, Paul Laikin and Clementine Laikin.

24 September 2018 | 10:30am-12:00pm (Community Outreach)
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones
Kilkenny Liberal Studies Group, Kilkenny. Presenters: Jannette Cheong, Christopher Heltzel.

23 September 2018 | 2.30pm-4:30pm (Public Event)
(Phase 1) Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones
Dublin, organised by the Ireland Japan Association at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dr Tony Ryan Gallery, Ely Place, Dublin 2. Presenters: Jannette Cheong, Des Early, Christopher Heltzel.

21 September 2018 | 10:30am-4:30pm (Schools Project)
Under the auspices of Phase 1, and working with the Japan Society, London, we will begin the Coventry Primary Schools Workshop for schools selected for the 'School Links Peace Cities' project.

19 August 2018 | 1pm-2:30pm Public Event)
Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones
House Courtyard, Cragside House. Presenters: Gina Barnes, Jannette Cheong, David Hughes.

18 August 2018 | 2pm-3:30pm (Public Event)
Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones
Japan Gallery, Oriental Museum, University of Durham. Presenters: Gina Barnes, Jannette Cheong, David Hughes.

23 May 2018 | 2pm-3.30pm (Invitation Event)
Illustrated Talk and Reading of Between the Stones (in support of National Dying Matters Week), Marie Curie Hospice Hampstead, London. Presenters: Jannette Cheong & Paul Laikin

20 February 2018 | 6pm-8pm (Public Event)
Joint Illustrated Talk and Readings of Between the Stones and Emily
Handa Noh Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London. Presenters: Ashley Thorpe and students for Emily; Jannette Cheong & Paul Laikin for Between the Stones.

Future project-related events

We are in discussion about a number of other education and outreach events for 2019 and 2020. 

If you would like us to undertake an event for either public or educational engagement in 2019-20 please feel free to contact us. Although our time is limited, wherever we can, we will happily consider genuine requests within the framework of the project.