|"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.