Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question51 Who is the "overseer" of the stage?


There are several assistants called kōken sitting on the upper stage right. You will find that they support the performance by adjusting the actors' clothes, arranging props, and so on. You may think that they are similar to kurogo, the kabuki stagehands dressed in black, but the role of kōken is quite different in importance. While kurogo are responsible for minor stage work, such as helping actors or operating scenery, kōken are responsible for supervising the entire performance from a higher level. They may be likened to overseers watching over the actors to ensure their best performance.

Therefore, one of the kōken is normally an actor with skills that are similar or even superior to those of the performers. Although the kōken have an important function, they try to be as inconspicuous as possible and always work in the background. When they change the leading actor's props, they have to minimize their movements. If one of the actors cannot continue a performance, a kōken is supposed to play his part. When actors lose track of their words, a kōken will help them as a prompter. Despite appearances to the contrary, they are always watching over the stage with well-sharpened senses.

(Feb 3, 2009)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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