Ho'Ichi The Earless

October 23 - 26, 2003
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
First Floor Theatre

Playwright Ryo Onodera
Director Kanako Hiyama
Composer, Musician Yukio Tsuji
Featuring Tom Lee, Lars Preece, Tom Knutson


"Ho'ichi, the Ear Less" is a play in English based on a Japanese ghost fable written by Yakumo Koizumi. The production marks New York debuts for two Japanese artists: Ryo Onodera has his playwriting debut and Kanako Hiyama has her directing debut.

The plot is a Japanese ghost fable. Ho'ichi is a blind man works in a Buddhist temple. Although he is also a great player of Biwa, the Japanese classical guitar, his visual handicap has caused him to be regarded as useless in the time of Samurai Era. One day, a nobleman from a Samurai family approaches Ho'ichi and asks to come to a castle to play Biwa for his mistress. It is Ho'ichi's first chance to perform before a large audience; his delight in playing is ecstatic and the performance earns him huge applause. The concert goes extremely well until the monk of the temple where Ho'ichi lives discovers that the noble Samurai is a ghost. The monk knows that when the ghost returns, it will be with an invitation from hell, and so he sets out to protect his ward from perdition. Using Buddhist calligraphy, the monk manages to conceal Ho'ichi's body from the ghost except for the musician's ear, which is seized by the spirit.


Asian ghost stories are mostly Buddhist parables, providing moral guidance and metaphysical insight. Yakumo Koizumi is the pen name under which Lafcadio Hearn's stories were published in Japan. Americans are most aware of this art form through translations by Hearn, who was subject of the recent book, "Wandering Ghost: the Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn" by Jonathan Cott (Knopf, 1991). He traveled to Japan in 1890 and was so captivated that he stayed, married, raised a family and died there.

The ghost will be depicted as a shadow figure. The drama is acted in pantomime set to music by Yukio Tsuji, which is being composed expressly for this piece. It will be performed live on Biwa and other instruments by Tsuji, who is a resident composer of La MaMa and a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory.

Playwright Ryo Onodera, originally from Tokyo, is a professional stage manager in Japan who joined the La MaMa family when he joined the Japanese tour of "The Trojan Woman" two years ago. For the last year, he has been in a study-abroad program for Japanese theater professionals, and participated in numerous La MaMa productions including "The Last Two Jews of Kabul" and "Carmilla."

Director Kanako Hiyama, originally from Chiba, earned a B.A from Fort Lewis College in Colorado. She has worked in the administrative staff of La MaMa since 2001 and is also a freelance stage manager. She will collaborate with Kathryn Moller in "SKINs," which will be presented by La MaMa in its Annex Theater in 2005.

Ho'ichi is played by Tom Lee, a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory.The Ghost is played by Lars Preece.

2003 page