There are four types of performers who portray the
roles in Noh and Kyogen: the shite (main actor),
the waki (supporting actor[s]), the hayashi (musicians),
and the kyogen (Kyogen actor[s]).
The shite actor undertakes various roles\playing
the part of the main character (shite), or of
the accompanying character (tsure), or even the
child role (kokata); making up the chorus (jiutai);
and serving as a stage assistant (koken), who
fixes the appearance of the costume and hands
props to the main character. The type of character
portrayed depends upon the type of play being
performed, but the majority of characters range
from the spirits of men and women and even plants
or trees, to gods, demons, and supernatural beings.
In principle, there is a Noh mask appropriate
for each main role.
The waki actor serves to support the main actor,
and thus performs the roles of waki and waki-tsure.
Depending upon the play, they might be Shinto
priests, Buddhist monks, or samurai, but they
are always roles portraying real, living men.
The waki does not wear a mask.
There are four types of musicians who play in
Noh, and sometimes (but rarely) in Kyogen: the
flute player, the shoulder-drum player, the hip-drum
player, and the stick-drum player.
The Kyogen actor, it goes without saying, performs
Kyogen comedies. Within a Noh play, however, an
ai-kyogen actor ("Kyogen actor who performs during the
interval") appears after the shite of Act
1 has exited, and serves to relate to the waki the story of the place, telling the tale in great
detail. Within a Kyogen play, the main role is
called the shite, and the supporting role is called