Photo by Julie Lemberger, 2017


October 2017
The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, State University of New York

Based on a 14th-century noh play with the same title, Hanjo, by provocative Japanese author Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), is a timeless tale of love, loneliness and betrayal. New York’s beloved SITI Company unveils Mishima’s story as a bilingual triptych in which the actors rotate through each character role. The production weaves noh theater’s elegance, expressiveness and economy, together with techniques of contemporary theater, to shed light on identity, gender, language, and ultimately the art of acting. Performed in English and Japanese.

SITI Company’s production of it is being directed by Co-Artistic Director Leon Ingulsrud and features SITI Company actors Akiko Aizawa, G.M. Gianino, and Stephen Webber as well as Musician and Composer Christian Fredrickson.

Read SITI’s press release about the fall performances of Hanjo here.

The play is relatively brief and has three characters, two women and one man. The conceit of the production is to perform the play three times and rotate the cast so that we see each actor play each of the three roles. In addition to this, Akiko Aizawa will perform in Japanese. The aim of this conceit is to allow a 21st Century audience to experience the play in a way akin to the experience of a Noh connoisseur who would be keenly familiar with not only the play but the manner of performance. By watching three actors perform the same roles, we are able to appreciate each of them as performers of a form not just as inhabitants of a character. An experience perhaps similar to watching an Opera singer perform an iconic role. 

In May of 2007, we presented a reading of the play at the Japan Society in New York City, performed by Akiko Aizawa, Tom Nelis, and Mickey Solis. The rotating bi-lingual conceit was tried and audience reaction to it was quite positive. It constituted very solid a proof-of-concept.

Hanjo reading, Japan Society, May 2007Hanjo reading, Japan Society, May 2007

Hanjo was one of three plays that SITI Company included in the roll-out of Work/Space in 2016, and work on it began in earnest in April. Because of the idea of sharing the roles, it was possible for all of the company actors to participate. So we worked with various combinations, a process which was very enlightening.
The English language text we are using is an adaptation that Leon Ingulsrud is making from a translation by Donald Keene. The adaptation is necessary to update some of the language as well as to allow the translation to match the Japanese in ways that are specifically necessary in a situation where we are trying to build a form for each role that works in either language.

Hanjo work in progress showing, SITI Zeisler Studio April 2016Hanjo work in progress showing, SITI Zeisler Studio April 2016

An important part of SITI Company’s interest in Hanjo is to explore the values and aesthetic philosophy of Noh without necessarily recreating its surface. Such characteristic elements as live music and a spare visual aesthetic will be retained, but we are trying to find a form of performance that could indeed be called “Modern Noh.”

We are working on Hanjo in Work/Space rehearsals sessions that are woven into our current Conservatory schedule.

Stay tuned for more!!

Written by Yukio Mishima

English Translation by Leon Ingulsrud


Akiko Aizawa
Gian-Murray Gianino
Stephen Duff Webber

Directed by Leon Ingulsrud

Scenic and Lighting Design by Brian H Scott

Costume Design by Mariko Ohigashi

Sound Design and original composition by Christian Frederickson

Production Stage Manager: Ellen Mezzera

Early development of Hanjo occurred during SITI Work/Space, SITI Company’s in-house residency program for new play development, which was supported by the National Endowment of the Arts, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 

Additional support was provided by the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program.

Production design support provided by the Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Fund, a program of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York)