Spoiler alert: “Mystical Abyss” ends with the Sky Woman of Iroquois legend falling into the void, with birds and animals breaking the fall, until she lands on a giant turtle and creates the continent of North America.
That’s just a small bit in a cosmic tale from Yuriko Doi, founder-director of Theatre of Yugen.
Doi is pulling together a wide range of The City’s talent from various disciplines to produce “Mystical Abyss,” a fusion of Japanese dramatic arts, Native American legend, Noh choreography and world theater.
The piece, onstage this week at ODC Theater, is part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival’s 10th anniversary programming, and co-presented by Theatre of Yugen and the U.S.-Japan Cultural Trade Network.
The script by John O’Keefe interweaves elements of newly imagined Japanese mythology, a Native American creation story and more.
Doi, who is directing, calls “Mystical Abyss” an “intellectual yet widely accessible theatrical work that evokes powerful images of unity and harmony across different generations, cultures and traditions.”
She says the cyclical story of death and rebirth addresses the “quest for balance” between good and evil.
While there are common themes in Japanese and Native American cultures — respect for ancestors, deeply embedded spirituality and love of nature — apparently Doi is the first to explore these connections in a work of art.
Famed Japanese Noh master Shiro Nomura is the choreographer of “Mystical Abyss.” His son, Masashi Nomura, portrays goddesses Izanami and Amaterasu, who make their own cosmic journeys.
The cast also features flutist Narumi Takizawa, drummer Yoshio Ueno, Mohawk dancers and singers Kenny and Roger Perkins, Aztec mitote performance artist Cuauhtemoc Peranda, Mexican folkloric dancers Jesus Jacoh Cortes and Janelle Ayon, and Catalan-American actor Lluis Valls as the Turtle and Narrator.
Japanese animators Taketo Kobayashi and Koya Takahashi created images inspired by prehistoric Japanese Jomon art to complement Renta Kouchi’s set. Noh masks are by Hideta Kitazawa.
Doi, 70, whose career focused on Japanese Noh and Kyogen for many years, started working with Native American material in 2001. Her memorable work about Crazy Horse was presented in free performances in Japantown’s Peace Plaza in The City that year.
Calling “Mystical Abyss” her final major theatrical production, Doi says, “As a mother who hoped for a better world for her children, I have spent my life building bridges across false divides. I see ‘Mystical Abyss’ as a metaphor for our need to be reborn, to go back to the beginning and move forward on a path of peace and respect for our world and each other.”