In a small dark room, a spotlight shines down upon the stage. The audience watches the performance with breathless anticipation. In a theatre so small, so intimate, the actors’ bated breath can be heard without microphones. The vivid expressions and motions of the actors tear down the boundaries between life and fiction and immerse the audience within the play, creating something far greater than simple entertainment; they have created something cathartic, something transformative.
The audience feels that it is part of the action. This is the power of theatre, and last December, the 19th Small Theater Festival, held at the Sayre Art Center in Yeon-dong, Jeju City, endeavored not only to create a transformative experience for the audience, but also to advance the culture of theatre on Jeju Island.
▲ A scene from Sayre's The Lesson. Photo by Yang Ho Geun
The Sayre Art Center, located near KBS Jeju in Jeju City, is one of three small theaters on the island and is capable of seating up to 50 people. The theater was musty during the festival, and the chairs creaked, but it created a great dramatic atmosphere.
From Dec. 1 to 5, Sayre, one of the theatrical troupes on Jeju, performed the Eugene Lonesco play, “La lecon,” and another theatrical troupe, Ieodo, performed “The Good Doctor,” by Neil Simon, from Dec. 18 to 19. Another other theatrical troupe, Garam, presented “Itami Murder,” by recently deceased Korean-Japanese playwright Kouhei Tsuka, on Dec. 28 to 30.
During the festival, there were as few as three people in an audience and at most 50. The numbers were so miserable that it could hardly be called a festival.
In the past, there were 10 small privately-operated theaters on the island, and many people frequented plays presented there. Of late, audiences have decreased to the point where there are just three small theaters, which attract only a handful of patrons.
Kang Sang Hoon, the director of Sayre, said “Jeju theatrical troupes face tougher times. Sometimes we put on an act to vacant auditoriums.” He added, “I appeal to [the] Jeju people and visitors to please go to theaters and raise the cultural standard of Jeju.”
Young people like university students and the middle-aged especially should show active interest in small theaters to boost the culture.
Lee Yong Hak, the vice-president of the Jeju Theaters Association, said “In Jeju, there isn’t [a] College of Art which specializes in acting so we can’t educate any potential talent. Therefore we aren’t able to improve Jeju’s unique traditional culture.” He added, “Small theater troupes need administrative support from [the] local government to protect and diversify our culture.”
▲ The Chang Ki Ha band performed at Gandurak theater in Jeju City last month. Photo by Yang Ho Geun
In its continuing efforts to attract potential audiences, Gandurak, one of the theater troupes in Jeju, held free concerts by popular Korean singers. More than 500 people crowded in and around Gandurak’s small theater when Chang Ki Ha, a well-known singer in Korea, performed at the theater on Dec. 17.
Oh Soon Hee, the director of Gandurak said, “Young people are [more] interested in well-known entertainers than theater culture.” She added, “On this occasion, I hope that they are interested in Jeju’s small theater culture and that they lead the culture.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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