A fisherman finds a beautiful robe on the bushes and decides to take it home to his family, but an angel appears and asks to have it back.
“Do one of your heavenly dances,” he tells her, “and I’ll give back your robe.”
She wants the robe first; he wants to see the dance first. After all, he argues, how does he know she wouldn’t just take the robe and fly away?
“In heaven there is no deceit,” the angel tells the fisherman. And he is ashamed that he doubted her.
“It’s a beautiful story, one of the most beloved folk tales in Japan,” Elizabeth Dowd said, explaining how visitors to the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s Alvina Krause Theater on Saturday can see the final dance from “Hagoromo,” or “Feathered Robe.”
The entire story won’t be shown, Dowd noted, but audiences can enjoy the dance number as well as excerpts from several other theatrical pieces, enough to get a taste of classic Noh theater, which originated centuries ago in Japan.
This is the 19th summer the Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble has offered intensive Noh training, said Dowd, who is project producing director. While the group prepares for next year’s 20th-anniversary production, this year’s performance is a recital.
“It’s not a complete experience,” she said, explaining that, while actors will use “beautiful fans” to help tell their stories, you won’t see the masks for which Noh theater is famous. The masks are so respected, she said, that it’s not appropriate to use them in recital.
Nevertheless, what you will see and hear will be a feast for the senses, she said, with lots of dancing, drumming, poetry and drama.
Dowd herself will appear in a piece called “Ama,” which means “Pearl Diver,” in which she will portray a diver who is seeking a jewel at the bottom of the ocean. The woman is trying to save her son and realizes she might have to shed her own blood to accomplish her goal.
Another excerpt tells of a “Tenko,” a “heavenly drum that won’t sound for anyone anymore.”
“They’re really wonderful, rich stories,” Dowd said.
Because Saturday’s event is not a full production, the performers will not wear elaborate costumes but recital wear, which resembles American formal wear. “To the Western eye, it looks sort of like a tux and tails,” Dowd said.
Dowd expects 19 people, ranging from teachers to first-year students, will take part.
Not to be missed isthe performance of the master teacher, Akira Matsui.
“I think that’s the highlight,” Dowd said, “to see what we all aspire to.”