LIFE IN KOREA: Maintaining Sanity in Seoul

by Heath Hyun, 23/10/2010

"The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation." (Terence McKenna)

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 In an age when much of our communication is dominated by technological developments, live interaction becomes increasingly distant, especially community experiences.  We have become much more selective about our social outings.  A kind of self-imposed alienation is something to which, as outsiders, we are indeed susceptible.    

There are many social groups in which expats in Korea can participate. There are women’s rugby, intramural football, photography, and hiking as well as political groups and religious organizations, sports clubs and music groups.  However, participation by Korean people in such groups widely varies.

The arts are a way to begin sharing our experiences in ways that, perhaps, other activities are not as conducive.  The work is usually focused, much like a sports club, toward a single projects.  However, unlike sports clubs,  there is a concerted attempt at some sort of public dialogue; the work is being presented for public consumption as much as personal gratification and endeavor.    There are quite a few expat theater companies operating in Seoul; Actor’s Without Bard’ers, Seoul City Improv, Seoul Players, Camarata Music Company, Probationary Theater, The Workshop Division and B&H Productions, as well as independent producers have all made the past year a VERY rich theater going season.  They all offer varying levels of participation, but all welcome project submissions.    

Upcoming  projects include:  Probationary Theatre Company presents ‘10 Reasons To Not Go Home’ Actor’s Without Bard’ers presents a staged reading of ‘The Merchant of Venice’  Seoul Players ‘Night of a 1000 Plays’  Home Soil Theatre “Perfect Working Models’   Camarata Music Company’s concert presentation of Handel’s Messiah.

I have been surprised at how eager Koreans have been about supporting our  work. Many area businesses made significant donations, others aided with translations, offering venues, budgeting, technical aspects and so much more.  For example, The RUF XXX Project in Gyeonggidan, has been a very supportive organization for foreign performers.  The philosophies of most companies seems to include some variation on the theme of sharing; our talents, our ideas, our crafts, our cultures.    The theatre is a wonderful way to learn about one another as it’s microcosmic experience. A group of people put into a series of intense circumstances that must in the end produce something.   We come not only from difference countries, but different sub-cultures within those countries.  We’re trained in different styles and as with most artist/craft persons, we approach the work differently.  

Yet, in this mountainous country on the eastern edge of Asia, we have found a way to flex our creative muscles and participate with relevant issues.  For example, a scene from Othello can be an indictment on domestic violence.  Romeo and Juliet can open a discussion on teen sexuality.  The stories, because removed from our time and space, allow us to analyze social behaviors from safe yet affected places. 

The legitimate theatre weaves a very strange spell.  One walks into a theatre knowing that everything one will see and hear is a creation, a fabrication.  Yet, if the work is strong enough, we allow ourselves to let go of all of that knowledge and be swept up in the reality of the moment happening LIVE in front of us.   The theatre allows us to examine how we live with one another.  Given the set of unique circumstances at play in a developing city like Seoul, inspiring public conversation through artistic projects, can be profoundly satisfying.  

For more information on how you can get involved in theatre/choir groups in Korea, click here.  For performance information, visit our What's Going On section.



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