Our History




Founded in 1978 by Yuriko Doi, Theatre of Yugen is an experimental ensemble dedicated to the pursuit of the intangible essence of yugen (幽玄)—yu (“profound” and “tranquil”) and gen (“mysterious”). With a foundation in Japanese noh drama and kyogen satire—the world’s oldest living style of theatre (over 600 years old)—Yugen creates works of world theatre by crafting original material and exploring dramatic and literary classics. By presenting and collaborating extensively with other organizations and artists across artistic genres, such as foolsFURY (acclaimed SF/New York theatre company), Thingamajigs (a Bay Area found-instrument music group), dancer and choreographer Shinichi Iova-Koga (founder of InkBoat, an SF-based Japanese butoh dance company), and former Martha Graham Dance Company principal Miki Orihara, Theatre of Yugen continues the evolution of live performance and artistic hybridity that stimulates intercultural understanding. It also maintains a robust training and apprenticeship program to ensure that the legacy of the theatrical discipline remains vital. No other theatre in the U.S. is exclusively committed to noh and kyogen. As such, Yugen remains a beacon for both traditional and experimental Japanese theatre in this country.


Theatre of Yugen continues to bring quality performance, artistry and educational programming to a cross section of people—the under-resourced, seniors, people of color, the LGBT community, local and international students—to celebrate the aliveness of contemporary Japanese theatre. By presenting some of today’s most established and influential noh and kyogen performers while also nurturing new performers and young audiences, Yugen remains, after 38 years, at the forefront of cultivating a vigorous reception for Japanese theatre. Through its performances, workshops, and special events, Yugen promotes, fosters and inspires the enjoyment of Japanese theatre. It brings the poetry, dance and music of Japanese theatre to diverse audiences; increases public recognition, awareness and appreciation of Japanese theatre; provides a community setting in which Japanese theatre practitioners can exchange ideas and information and develop active roles; and encourages the participation of collaborators from various disciplines and across a broad range of styles.


Theatre of Yugen has received numerous awards and accolades, chief among them a Commendation by the Ministry of Japanese Foreign Affairs for “excellence in the pursuit of and promotion of a more improved understanding of Japan, its culture, and its people”; a 2009 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts commission for the theatre work Dogsbody, a retelling of The Illiad; a coveted run at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York of Cordelia, a noh-inspired retelling of King Lear; and a 2011 Creative Work Fund Award and National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the development and performance of he noh-inspired theatre work Emmett Till a river. Theatre of Yugen is a member of Theatre Bay Area, Network of Ensemble Theatres, the SF Bay Area Ensemble Consortium, and the Association of Asian Performance.


Annually, Theatre of Yugen performances, workshops and educational programs reach more than 3,800 people with an additional 2,000 artists and audience members served through its theatre NOHspace.