Composer and musician Allen Whitman, along with co-composer Suki O’Kane, collaborated with Theatre of Yugen’s ensemble of actors, guest musicians, and playwright and director Erik Ehn to create The Cycle Plays — a project spanning three years in the development of five plays that were performed in traditional Japanese Noh format of a one-day, all-day theatrical event during which the Noh plays were presented with Kyogen — short light plays — sandwiched between them.
The new plays were formed from the five categories of Noh repertoire: an opening God (celebratory) play, a warrior play, a woman play, a fourth category play exploring a range of subjects from heartbreak to madness, and a demon play. Theatre of Yugen and Ehn reinvented these categories using a contemporary lexicon and stories: Winterland (the Sex Pistols’ last concert in San Francisco), Letters from a Small House (the Unabomber Ted Kaczinski), Dark Silent (Helen Keller), an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Pretty (the young kidnapping and murder victim Polly Klaas).
Lead artist and composer Allen Whitman has performed, recorded, produced, licensed, and written music for more than 30 years, touring Japan, Sweden, the United States, and Canada. He has worked in a wide variety of musical forms and with a wide variety of musicians. He is a founding member of the San Francisco cult psychedelic surf band The Mermen.
Theatre of Yugen is an experimental ensemble whose physically based, original work is informed by a discipline in the classic forms of Japanese theater—Noh and Kyogen. It was founded by Yuriko Doi in 1978. At the time of this grant, Jubilith Moore, Lluis Valls, and Libby Zilber were its joint artistic directors.