The Trope of Transformation in Medea: A Noh Cycle

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Vol: 37, Issue: 1

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Loren Edelson
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Traditional Japanese theater forms have long prioritized stylization over realism in performance. Paradoxically, their history of all-male authorship and all-male performers has contributed to the notion that these theater forms are inherently sexist. Yet, since the 1960s, theater practitioners have drawn on these traditional forms to rediscover feminine and feminist messages. This essay discusses one of these experiments: Carol Sorgenfrei’s 1975 work Medea: A Noh Cycle Based on the Greek Myth. By rejecting mimetic realism and drawing on the highly stylized nô, Sorgenfrei has crafted a play that is politically engaged in order to expose the constructed nature of everyday lived experience and to present a number of viewpoints. By adhering to the structure of nô, Sorgenfrei creates a world where time, place, and gender are transcended in favor of larger-than-life emotions and issues.