UT School of Visual & Performing Arts

Soul of Seoul

 

 

A working vacation is always my favorite experience because you actually get to know the culture.  Much as we loved the first days of sightseeing, it was exciting to get down work!  Kookmin University’s sprawling campus is nestled in the mountains and surrounded by trees.  At its center is a large soccer field and basketball courts, which are always full of students playing– even now, though school will not be in session until the end of August, when their “second” semester begins.  In other words, their semesters are reversed from ours, with graduation happening at the end of this coming semester.
Kookmin’s modern buildings are decorated with various sculptures and fountains.  This university is ranked twentieth in South Korea and is home to twenty five thousand students.  The theatre building is also the home of Art, Dance and Film, and the rehearsal space is a blackbox space located in the basement the theatre building, and not unlike our own Studio theatre.
Everyone, from the Head of the Program, to the students, is extremely welcoming.  Our first rehearsal was primarily a chance to do introductions and introduce the directorial concept.  The students were extremely receptive, and respectful.  Korea is a Confucionist society so hierarchy is extremely important.  People will often ask your age and give you special respect even if you are only one year older.  Even among students, this is the case.  Juniors will bow to Seniors and do what they are told.  Koreans will not question authority, even if authority figures make a mistake–which will be interesting in this process, since our student Stage Manager is only a Junior and the cast are all Seniors.
Professors are treated with utmost respect in society.  Teaching (at all levels) is considered extremely prestigious, and according to a friend of mine, people will frequently pay large sums to become tenured Professors, when qualifications do not suffice.  There are always numerous students ready to help you with anything you need, and they bow each time you walk by.  I could see how this could easily go to your head!At the first rehearsal, We had the time to read through Act One and begin text analysis on the play.  The students were able to grasp the physical actions we proposed and follow direction quickly, thanks also to the great work of our translator, who sat between us and captured all the subtleties of what we were trying to say.  I was amazed by how well we were able to follow along, and even note discrepancies between translations.  For example, when Bottom is introduced to the character he will play in the play the Mechanicals are preparing, he says “what is Pyramus, a lover or a tyrant?”. We noticed that the actor was not playing the very funny antithesis between “lover” and “tyrant” and discovered that in translation the text said “what is Pyramus, a tyrant?”. It turns out that there is no word for lover in Korean!  Though we are continuing to search for a word whose characteristics are so evident in their poetic and passionate culture.

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