Last Jedi writer and director Rian Johnson stopped by Kyoto’s Byodo-in Temple to pray for the film’s success. (Admittedly, he probably doesn’t need it!) But that’s not even the high point of the visit. With help from classically trained performers, Johnson got to see the world of Star Wars translated into a traditional Japanese style: Kyogen.
What is Kyogen?
Kyogen evolved alongside Noh theater and appeared during Noh intermissions. That, though, is where the similarities end. It has more in common with Italy’s commedia dell’arte style, relying heavily on masks and stock characters. (Kyogen, however, predates commedia by almost two centuries!)
Kyogen performances are short, perhaps around ten minutes per show, and have only two or three characters in them: a Master and one or two servants (named Taro-kaja and Jiro-kaja). As with other types of Japanese theater, there are very specific gestures and intonations the actors employ. But in the end, there is only one goal: make the audience laugh!
Nowadays, there are a few great Kyogen students and performers, among them Senzaburo Shigeyama and his family. And some of those modern master decided to give Star Wars the comedy treatment.
The Master and the Servants
The Star Wars Kyogen performance kept to the traditional style, with a master and two silly servants taking the stage. They even kept the traditional costume and mask styles… but with a bit of a twist. Vader appears as the Master in a star-emblazoned black cloak, with Taro-kaja and Jiro-kaja in metallic masks, sharing the color schemes of our two favorite droids, C-3PO and R2-D2. They turned out pretty great, didn’t they?
Johnson said afterward he was especially impressed by the actor who played the Master. The Master’s actor then admitted he had been rained out of rehearsal! But they all had a good time and got to show their love for the series.
Serving as a backdrop for the show was a beautiful sumi-e piece by bujinga artist Masayuki Kojo. Kojo has done portraits of Star Wars characters in the past, which were well loved by fans. This new piece shows Kylo Ren and the two classic droids.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi opens worldwide December 15. Are you excited? Share your hype in the comments!