▲ “Mother’s Travels” depicts the difficulties of a mother’s role in Korean life. Photo by Kim Ik Du
The entrance to the performance hall on the fourth floor of the Sulmundae Women’s Center was crowded with people on July 2. Though there were some high school students in uniform as well as elderly women with silver hair and several middle-aged men, most were women between the ages of 40 and 60. They were waiting to see “Mother’s Travels,” a play by Jeong Min Ja, which was staged for two days with three showings last weekend.
The title was a little confusing for me as a born-and-bred Korean because (in my experience) Korean mothers who take care of their children and household affairs do not usually travel by themselves. When I considered this further, I realized how strange it is to take that for granted.
The play is about an ordinary mother who spends every moment taking care of her family, from preparing their meals to running errands for her children. While her husband and children eat, she serves; when they lounge on the sofa, she brings tea as if she were a waitress. Only when her family leaves the house to go to school or work does she have time for herself.
It was familiar ground. Indeed some women in the audience laughed a little bitterly at the scenes where the mother’s husband does not allow the mother to go to her high school reunion or when the mother waits alone for her daughter, who had yet to come home, or the son complains about her not bringing a drink to his room.
Finally, the mother decides to escape her restrictive home life. Her place of refuge is the small space of a noraebang (singing room). Singing and drinking alone in the room, she cries and realises that she is sorry for her own mother. I found this scene shocking. The pain of the mother on stage could well be that of my own mother.
The next day she begins her travels, meeting many people on her journey; a old woman who sacrificed everything for her family like herself, an unmarried friend who envies her children, a man who only realized his wife’s importance after divorcing. The mother then considers her own dream that had been set aside during her marriage. Her journey is one of self discovery.
The writer and producer Jeong Min Ja of the Sayre Art Center had previously staged four plays around the theme of Women’s lives. “Even though Jeju women created Jeju’s history and today they are doing well both in their households and working outside the home, there are few plays to focus on their strong, tenacious will-power,” she told The Jeju Weekly.
She explained her inspiration for “Mother’s Travels” came from a picture in a children’s book which describes a woman carrying her husband and two children on her back. With this play Jeong wanted to create the message that mothers play an important role in the home.
“This play is [aimed at] not only women, but also husbands and children who have to [increase] their awareness. I hope our play can be a movement towards understanding mothers,” she said.
Finally, I spoke with one of the audience members, a Mrs. Yi Yeon Suk from Jeju City who has four children and is in her 50s.
“I know how the mother in the play feels,” she said. “The play was like [watching] our lives. I wish more people [would hear] about this play and [realise how important it is] to think of their mothers.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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