I bought my monthly issue of The Korean Theatre Review (한국연극) early this December. I was surprised to see one of my favorite pansori ensembles, the Gugak Musical Collective Taroo (국악뮤지컬집단 타루) on the cover. As I skimmed through the magazine, I found out why: Taroo’s production “하얀 눈썹 호랑이” (“White Eyebrowed Tiger”, see a video clip) is listed among the “2013 Best Seven Performances” (2013 공연베스트7) as the best children theatre (via Facebook)!
Congratulations to Taroo! I’ve been a big fan of the ensemble since I saw one of their performances for the first time in early 2012: “Pansori, Wearing Rainboots” (판소리, 레인부츠를 신다) is a potpourri of short pieces where one of the ensemble members performs pansori in combination with another art or medium, such as modern dance, acting, or video.
I have written about their very different performances on various occasions. See, for example, my reviews of their revival events “Taroo Tradition Project” (타루 전통Project!), classical pansori pieces performed in a hanok backyard in Bukchon (blogpost and review in English and Korean), the wonderful gugak musical Unhyeon Palace Romance (운현궁 로맨스) about the forbidden love between a prince and a pansori singer (Korean review), and the work-in-progress Hamlet-project (Korean review) that is suppposed to premiere next spring.
Is Taroo’s nomination by a major theatre magazine an indication of a new trend—gugak getting more acknowledged in the world of theatre? I checked the December issues of 2012 and 2011 and couldn’t find another gugak-related production.
Browsing through older “Best 7”-lists reaching back to 2006 (tables of contents of earlier issues can be found, for example at the 대전전자도서관, even without registering), I found the choices generally rather “conservative”. Well-established ensembles such as Lee Yun-taek’s Street Theatre Troupe (연희단거리패) or Son Jin-chaek’s Michoo Theater Company (극단미추) are regulars. Therefore, the nomination of a young gugak ensemble seems quite revolutionary!
Taroo’s Tiger premiered in December 2011 in the local cultural center of Eunpyeong-gu (은평문화예술회관). I saw a short excerpt at a double-bill performance of “tradition-meets-newcomers” at Folk Theatre Pungnyu (민속극장 풍류) on July 13th, 2012, where Taroo shared the stage with master singer Kim Su-yeon (김수연). Although Taroo performed the Tiger on various occasions during the last two years, I didn’t have a chance to see the full production yet. Fortunately, there are upcoming performances in January 2014 (see below for details).
This year’s “Best 7” also includes The Golden Dragon (황금용, 연출: 윤광진). The piece by German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig has been staged last spring in Daehangno, with translation support by the Goethe-Institut (that’s how I got my free ticket). I have written about the piece in an earlier blogpost.
Besides the Theatre Review’s “Best 7”, the other best-of list is the “This Year’s Theatre Best Three” (올해의 연극 베스트3) published in the quarterly The Korean Theatre Journal (연극평론, not available online, see a note in Hankyoreh). Once again, The Golden Dragon is listed.
Another production I personally liked a lot is among the Top 3: I Am My Own Wife (나는 나의 아내다), shown at Doosan Art Center last summer. I had coached actor Nam Myeong-nyeol (남명렬) for pronounciation, as the protagonist of this monodrama is German and occasionally throws in a line or two (see my short post on the rehearsals, there’s also a short clip of the piece performed by Nam’s double-cast Ji Hyeon-jun on Youtube). There will be a revival of I Am My Own Wife in December 2014, a great opportunity to once again see this hilarious and virtuous piece that tells the story of an extraordinary character on the background of recent German history.
Nam Myeong-nyeol is also heading the piece Alibi Chronicle (알리바이 연대기) by the National Theater Company of Korea (국립극단), which is listed in both best-ofs. A big “Congratulations!” to him, too.
– 3 Dec. 2013 (火)
- 국악뮤지컬집단 타루의 <하얀 눈썹 호랑이>, 공연기간: 2014년 1월 6일 ~ 8일, 매일 오후 1시, 4시 (제10회 서울 아시테지 겨울축제), 공연장소: 대학로예술극장 소극장, 예술의전당 자유소극장, 관람료: 20,000원 (예매: Interpark)
- Gugak Musical Collective Taroo, White Eyebrowed Tiger, on show from January 6th to 8th at 1 and 4 p.m. as part of the 10th ASSITEJ Korea Winter Festival, venue: Daehangno Arts Theatre (small stage), tickets at 20,000 Won (booking via Interpark)