▲ Christian Yetter plans, with help, to produce an English-language play festival in Jeju. Photo by Jenie Hahn
T.S. Eliot wrote “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” in his poem, “The Wasteland.” The poem hits close to home in the sense that Jeju was and still is in some ways a harsh and barren land with its painful history of genocide limiting many creative activities. This did not stop Christian Yetter from coming up with the idea of producing a play festival in what is currently an English-language theater wasteland.
After arriving in Jeju in September 2009, Yetter, who is originally from the U.S. state of Iowa, spent about six months settling in. Having time on his hands in his position as a TALK teacher, he decided to put his thoughts into action. He put up a notice on Rhymes with Jeju, a popular English-language community Web site, as well as starting a Facebook group (Jeju: Free Association Theater) in the hope of putting a play festival together. He received quite a lot of interest, enough to arrange a first meeting of would-be playwrights on April 3, which coincided with the date of one of the major tragedies in Jeju history: The April 3 Massacre.
Having majored in creative writing, Yetter got his feet wet through a friend who was into playwriting and started writing plays in college. He has participated in open mic nights in Jeju and said that his ultimate dream is to write a bestseller and have a book reading sometime in the future. Asked what spurred him to head this project, he succinctly replied, “Plays are awesome!” He added enthusiastically, “I thought, there are no big artist festivals here in Jeju. How about having one? Kind of like art for art’s sake, you know?”
The tantalizingly beautiful weather on the Saturday afternoon of the meeting, which came after a long and dreary spell of rain, did not deter five determined people including Yetter. After initial introductions, he got right down to business.
Yetter hopes to present four or more short plays and had prepared some handouts of sample scripts and how the play could possibly be written. For example, they should not be more than 20 pages long and about 20 minutes in actual running time. There needed to be no elaborate stage directions as there would be no support for jazzy special effects, stage lighting or costumes. “No funding is available. Strictly minimalist theater,” he said. But in terms of the subject matter, the writers could have free rein. The deadline by which to submit the plays is May 1 and Yetter plans to have a workshop around May 15 or 16. Those dates could change according to the schedule of the writers and what venues might be available. The workshops, he said, would primarily be for writers to come together to critique each other’s work and polish their scripts.
Although he hopes more people will join the group, Yetter said he does not want too many as that could be overwhelming both for the theater group and the public. Once the would-be play-wrights come up with interesting original scripts, the group will start looking for directors and actors, with auditions taking place sometime in May. His tentative plan is to stage the play festival sometime in mid- to late-July.
There are still issues that need to be addressed, such as where the festival will take place, when the best times to meet are and, ultimately, whether the plays actually get completed by writers with busy schedules. The fact that Yetter resides in Seogwipo may also prove less than convenient. Ideas were discussed at the inaugural meeting and the main concerns centered on issues of financing and time management.
Despite the concerns voiced, a lot of creative energy was obvious at the meeting and one of the attendees, Phil Reed, offered to host future workshops and practices at his apartment so long as they were limited to 6 or 7 people. Another participant, Phil Miron, said he would very much like to collaborate with another writer. Meagan Malone, the sole female participant, left the meeting saying, “I am very excited!”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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