Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Art throughout Asia- Korea

Korean Theatre is very vibrant today: being one of the largest musical markets and the country that brings us some of the delightful Kpop bands that are at their truest hearts theatrical machines! Korea is one of the countries that I have studied over the past few years mainly due to my sisterhood with Juno Kim. Juno is author and resident artist at www.runawayjuno.com and she has taught me a lot about the Korean spirit and Korean history in general. We also share a love for theatre, so she and I spent some time in Seoul checking out the theatrical scene in Seoul.

Prior to the 19th century there were basically two types of Korean theatre.
1. Talchum- Masked Drama, which was more politcal in nature. A mixture between song, dance and poetry.
2. Pansori- Korean opera. A central main character's journey that is supported by chanters, musicians and a chorus. Most similar to Japanese Noh rather than a Chinese Opera. 

The Main difference between the Talchum and the Pansori is subject matter and cast size.
Talchum has a larger cast and uses the medium to exploit a social issue. Pansori tells a story, although most of the stories do have an underlying theme to them.

After the 19th Century the art form began to grow. The first indoor theatre called the Hypolyul-sa was built in 1902. Shakespeare and other western dramas were introduced around this time and performed on this stage.
There are now three directions that the modern Korean theatre takes:
1. Government supported theatre through grants. Typically performed at the National Theatre in Seoul.
2. Daehakro- Off, off broadway.- independently funded and supported by local producers, more avante guard work.
3. Popo- Popular Theatre or Regional Theatre- individually run companies that buy and produce in their own location. Extremely similar to American Regional Space. Largest sect.

The musical has been the major money maker in Korea the last decade. Popular American musicals such as I love you, you're perfect, The Full Monty, Grease, and Hairspray have recently debuted completely with Korean translations for extended runs. I couldn't imagine what Grease would sound like in Korean but I think it would be amazing to see such a quintessentially American musical sounds like in a foreign language.  Then, I found the Youtube of it! Enjoy Summer nights in Korean! It's amazing!
I love you, You're Perfect, Now Change holds the longest running show record as of December 2011.

There are also things that are related to theatre in Korea's theatre history that are not necessarily theatre. There is Namsadang: which is Korean Circus. It was created during the Joseon Dynasty to entertain the emperor and his family. It is a combination of theatre, acrobatics, puppetry, dance, and clowning. There is no story or organized structure to it which makes me put it into a performance art category rather than a theatre category. (Doesn't make it any less valid.)

There was also Korean Puppetry that was believed to have been developed from Chinese Puppetry. They have a similar structure and story background. Like Chinese Puppetry, they use one performer per puppet usually and have musicians and chanters included. Korean Puppetry is usually aimed at children's audiences to tell traditional stories. The most common character in Korean puppet shows is the "bride" which is why the Korean word for puppet is ggogdu gagsi. Gagsi means bride.
Look at all the pretty Gagsi puppets!

No comments:

Post a Comment