Legend of the Forest

First Floor Theater
September 23 - 26, 2004
Thursday – Sunday 8:00pm and 2:30pm

Noriyuki Sawa



Noriyuki Sawa is a master Japanese Puppet Theater now living and working primarily in Prague. He will make his New York debut September 23 to 26 in La MaMa's Puppet Series Festival with "Legend of the Forest," a series of short plays inspired by ancient Japanese legends. In 1999, Sawa was awarded the Franz Kafka Medal for the performance of this production and for his global activities.

With the La MaMa Puppet Series Festival, the formative East Village theater once again takes its place as a leading US entry point for artists from around the world, and where the international influence on New York artists is most on display. This festival features US premieres of multicultural works from India, Poland, Bali, Japan and the Czech Republic. One production is a significant revival: the series culminates October 7 to 10 with "Motel," the puppet play of "America Hurrah," Jean-Claude van Itallie's trilogy, which was originally presented by La MaMa in 1965 and is now widely regarded as the watershed Off-Broadway play of the Sixties. The festival is supported by The Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and utilizes all three of La MaMa's performance theaters.

In "Legend of the Forest," a wounded soldier battles between life and death while lying unconscious in the forest. As he lies on the ground, a woman in white lures the wounded soldier skyward, attempting to leave his wounded body behind in the forest. He contemplates whether to leave his wounded body or return to it, but at last he decides to return into his body and awakens. Miraculously, the deep wound is healed and he starts to walk the forest again as a soldier. Sawa is the author, director, designer, puppetmaker, musical director and actor of the piece. This play will be accompanied by some other small pieces by Sawa in the La MaMa evening.

In 1999, The New Zealand Dominion called the show a "combination of stunningly beautiful Czech puppets and Bunraku puppet theater [which] creates a production made in heaven. It is eerily beautiful, intriguing and extraordinarily well performed." The puppets of Sawa's repertoire, which reveal a fusion of stylistic influences, can be viewed on-line at: http://www.puppet-house.co.jp/nori/NoriArt.htm.

The show has the feeling of an old Village performance from the Noh period. It combines puppetry, music and movement; the only spoken text is the introduction read by Nori Sawa before each piece in English. The stage is black and simply decorated with colorful Japanese material that makes the piece look like an old village performance in Japan. The plays are punctuated by cello and harpsichord pieces composed and played by Czech and other European musicians.

Noriyuki Sawa is a member of Nihon-Unima and Union Internationale de la Marionette. He is an instructor of Damu at the Academy of Performance Arts in Prague. He has been working in Europe since 1991 with the support of the Japan Foundation and the Cultural Ministry of the Japanese Government.


In 1993, he appeared in "Tower of Babel," a project co-produced by the Institut Internationale de la Marionette, Charleville-Mezieres, France and Damu-Prague, Czech Republic. In 1994, he was a commentator and performer in a High-Definition TV program in the International Puppetry Festival of France, produced by NHK (Public Broadcasting Association of Japan), which was broadcast in 1995 and 1996. He was the subject of an autobiographical documentary TV program, "Wandering Macbeth," produced by C.A.T. Praha (Prague) in cooperation with NHK, which was broadcast on Czech national TV Channel 2 in 1996.

Sawa has toured with his shows to Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Athens, New Zealand, Italy and Finland, among others. He also taught workshops in various countries with Petr Matasek of Theatre Drak. In 1998, he designed masks, puppets and scenic effects for "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," produced by Tokyo Public Theatre. Last season, he produced and co-directed the international project, "A Plague On Both Your Houses!," an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in collaboration with Theatre Drak and The Japan Foundation, and organized its tour to Europe and Japan. The show was presented into the Bath Shakespeare festival, England in March 2002.

Sawa's recent awards include The Grand-Prix of the International Puppetry Festival in Pecs, Hungary for "A Plague on Both Your Houses!" His theatrical repertoire also includes "The Story of Macbeth," a solo mime theater work with masks and puppets, and "Pieces," a collection of mime-theater works for children.

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