Histories of Korean Theatre, part 2 (Contemporary Theatre)

Following up on my first post on Suh Yon-ho’s History of Korean Theatre (vol. 1: Modern Theatre), I now present the translated table of contents from the second volume which is about contemporary, i.e. post-war theatre. (the book is available for free download thanks to the National Academy of Sciences)

In contrast to the first volume which was organised around variety of different styles or schools of theatre (from popular genres such as sinpa or musical theatre to rather intellectual realist and expressionist drama as well as proletarian and pro-Japanese propaganda theatre), Suh discusses three general tendencies in contemporary theatre:

1. The further development of modern styles that had been introduced earlier in the century, with realism being the most important branch

2. The reception and adaptation of new styles from the West, leading to localized versions of epic and absurd theatre, as well as American-style musicals

3. The productive inheritance of traditional performing arts which resulted in  new genres such as madang-geuk or jaedam-geuk (“joke-theatre”) as well as the revival of talnori (“mask dance games”), kkokdu-geuk (“puppet theatre”) etc.

So here we go again…

Suh Yon-ho, Korean Theatre History: Contemporary Theatre.

Foreword (13-15)

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

1. Methodology of Korean Theatre History (25-42)

2. The Cultural Basis for the Formation of Contemporary Theatre (43-61)

CHAPTER TWO: Continuity and Development of Modern Styles

1. The Inheritance of Realist Theatre and the Realities of Division (65-115)

2. The Inheritance of Comedy and Contemporary Satyrical Theatre (116-149)

3. Historical Theatre and Historical Awareness (150-168)

4. Inheritance and Identity Crisis of Changgeuk (169-179)

CHAPTER THREE: Reception and Creative Application of Western Styles

1. Reception and Acculturation of Epic Theatre (183-220)

2. Reception and Approaches towards Absurd Theatre (221-239)

3. The Rise of Mythological Theatre and the Exploration of Archetypes (240-277)

4. Reception and Negotiations of Theatre of Cruelty and Open Theatre (278-309)

5. Beginning of the Era of Musicals (310-327)

CHAPTER FOUR: Inheritance and Development of Traditional Styles

1. Attempts of Ritual Theatre and the Pursuit of Ceremonialism (331-347)

2. The Inheritance of Mask Dance Theatre and Mask Games (348-361)

3. The Value of Kkokdu Theatre and Contemporary Puppet Theatre (362-370)

4. The Revival of Joke Theatre and the Tradition of Narrative Theatre (371-388)

5. The Emergence of Madang-geuk and Workers’ Theatre (389-405)

6. Attempts of Gamuak-geuk and the Necessity for Traditional Music Theatre (406-423)

CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion

1. Significance and Tasks of Korean Contemporary Theatre (427-444)

2. Abstract in Japanese (445-462)

Bibliography (463-468)

Index (469-498)

***

Foreword

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

1. Methodology of Korean Theatre History

1) “Theatre in History” (연극에 관한 역사) or “History of Theatre” (연극의 역사)
2) Range of Study and Stylistic Categorization
3) Conception and Periodic Division of Contemporary Theatre

2. The Cultural Basis for the Formation of Contemporary Theatre

1) A New Generation of Theatre Ensembles and the Advancement of Audiences
2) The Foundation of the National Theatre and the Expansion of Small Theatres
3) The Emergence of a New Generation of Playwrights
4) The Influence of Translated Drama and Traditional Performance
5) The System of Censorshi

CHAPTER TWO: Continuity and Development of Modern Styles

1. The Inheritance of Realist Theatre and the Realities of Division

1) Realist Theatre (sasil-geuk, 사실극) and Madang-geuk (마당극)
2) Realist Theatre of the 1960s
3) Cha Beom-seok’s (차범석, 1924–2006) Realist Theatre
4) The Diversification of Realist Theatre
5) Realism in the 1980s
6) Yun Jo-byeong’s (윤조병, 1939–) “Cycle Plays” (yeonjak, 연작)
7) Jeong Bok-geun’s (정복근, 1946–) Realist Theatre
8) Post-Industrial Society and Realist Theatre
9) The Oversea Playwrights Han Jin and Yū Mi-ri*
10) Significance and Tasks of Realist Theatre
* After studying in Moscow, Han Jin (한진, 1931–93) did not return to North Korea for political reasons but remained in exile. As a “imprisoned ethnic Korean” (재소고려인), he lived and worked in Kazakhstan, then part of the USSR, and is considered a representative playwright of Korean origin (see this paper by Park Myeong-jin). An edition of his Collected Works (전집), including ten plays, nineteen short stories, as well as other writings and letters, has been published recently (see Aladin for details, as well as a review in the Kwangju Daily).
A zainichi Korean author, Yū Mi-ri (유미리 / 柳美里, 1968–) was born and raised in Japan and writes in Japanese while maintaining her South Korean citizenship. She generally “does not place much emphasis on the fact that she is Korean at all and barely even addresses the situation of Koreans in Japan in her works.”  (see Kristina Weickgenannt on “Images of Koreanness” in her work) Last March, Yū’s play Haebaragi-ui Gwan (해바라기의 관, “Stipe of the Sunflower”), which tells the identity-ladden relations of a zainichi boy and girl, a Japanese, and a Korean exchange student, has been performed in Seoul (video, interview) by the Korean-Japanese ensemble Shinjuku-Ryozanpaku (극단 신주쿠양산박, jap. 新宿梁山泊, see notes on 3.3.6 for details).

2. The Inheritance of Comedy and Contemporary Satyrical Theatre

1) Comedy (huigeuk, 희극) and Tragicomedy (huibigeuk, 희비극)
2) O Yeong-jin (오영진, 1916–74), Pioneer of Contemporary Comedy
3) The Boom of Romantic Comedy (romaentik komedi, 로맨틱 코미디)
4) The Settlement of Satyrical Comedy (pungja-huigeuk, 풍자희극)
5) Comedy Since the 1990s
6) The Impact of Tsuka Kōhei*
7) Significance and Tasks of Comedy and Satyrical Theatre (pungja-geuk, 풍자극)
* Tsuka Kōhei (쓰카 코헤이 / 츠카 고헤이, つかこうへい) is the pen name of Kim Bong-ung (김봉웅 / 金峰雄, 1948–2010), a renown zainichi Korean playwright, director and founder of the theatre company Tsuka Studio. He passed away in 2010. (see this obituary via Japan Zone; on his plays see The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama)

3. Historical Theatre and Historical Awareness

1) The Perception of Historical Theatre (yeoksa-geuk, 역사극)
2) Kim Ui-gyeong’s (김의경, 1936–) Historical Theatre
3) Kim Sang-ryeol’s (김상렬(열), 1941–) Historical Theatre
4) Historical Theatre of the 1970s
5) Historical Theatre of the 1980s and 90s
6) Historical Theatre of the 2000s
7) Significance and Tasks of Historical Theatre

4. Inheritance and Identity Crisis of Changgeuk

1) Changgeuk (창극) and the National Changgeuk Company (국립창극단)
2) The [Repertoire of] Five Songs and Changgeuk Stage Direction
3) In Search of New Changgeuk
4) Significance and Tasks of Changgeuk

CHAPTER THREE: Reception and Creative Application of Western Styles

1. Reception and Acculturation of Epic Theatre

1) Brecht and Epic Theatre (seosa-geuk, 서사극)
2) Lee Geun-sam (이근삼, 1929–2003), Missionary of Epic Theatre
3) Lee Jae-hyeon’s (이재현) Documentary Theatre (girok-geuk, 기록극)
4) Epic Theatre in the 1980s
5) Oh Tae-suk’s (오태석, 1940–) Epic Theatre
6) Kim Seok-man’s (김석만, 1951–) Productions
7) Epic Theatre since the 1990s
8) Significance and Tasks of Epic Theatre

2. Reception and Approaches towards Absurd Theatre

1) Theatre of the Absurd (bujori-geuk, 부조리극) and Anti-Theatre (banyeongeuk, 반연극)
2) Oh Tae-suk’s Attempts
3) Various Experiments in Absurd Theatre
4) Lee Hyeon-hwa (이현화, 1943–) and the Settlement of Absurd Theatre
5) Im Yeong-ung’s (임영웅, 1936–) »Waiting for Godot«
6) Significance and Tasks of Absurd Theatre

3. The Rise of Mythological Theatre and the Exploration of Archetypes

1) Living Archetypes (훤형)
2) Choe In-hun (최인훈, 1936–) and the Rise of Mythological Theatre (sinhwa-geuk, 신화극)
3) Lee Gang-baek’s (이강백, 1947–) Mythological Theatre
4) The Various Applications of Mythology
5) Lee Youn-taek (이윤택, 1952–) and the Intensification of Mythological Theatre
6) The Impact of Chong Wishing and Kim Sujin, Ethnic Koreans in Japan*
7) Significance and Tasks of Mythological Theatre
* Kim Sujin (김수진 / 金守珍, 1954–), actor, director, and student of Ninagawa Yukio, founded the Korean-Japanese theatre ensemble Shinjuku Ryozanpaku in 1987 (극단 신주쿠 양산박, jap. 新宿梁山泊, see the Japanese and the English homepage). The ensemble specializes in plays by Tokyo playwright Juro Kara, but also produces zainichi and Korean plays, such as Oh Tae-suk’s classic Toraji (도라지, “Bellflower”, 1994) which recently had a guest performance in Seoul. (see a video at youtube)
Chong Wishing (정의신 / 鄭義信, 1957–), founding member of Shinjuku Ryozanpaku, is a playwright-director who deals extensively with the situation of his fellow zainichi Koreans in Japan. Several of his plays have been shown in Korea, too, beginning with Cheonnyeon-ui Godok in 1989 (천년의 고독, “Thousand years of Solitude”, directed by Kim Su-jin), up until Jeokdo Arae-ui Maekbeseu in 2010 (적도 아래의 맥베스, “Macbeth Below the Equator”, directed by Son Jin-chaek). (See my review)

4. Reception and Negotiations of Theatre of Cruelty and Open Theatre

1) Openness and Participation
2) Oh Tae-suk’s Theatre of Cruelty (janhok-geuk, 잔혹극)
3) Lee Hyeon-hwa’s Theatre of Cruelty
4) Open Theatre in the 1980s
5) [Open Theatre] since the 1990s
6) Significance and Tasks of Open Theatre (gaebang-geuk, 개방극) and Theatre of Cruelty

5. Beginning of the Era of Musicals

1) Singing Theatre (gageuk, 가극) Musical Theatre (akgeuk, 악극), and Musical (myujikeol, 뮤지컬)*
2) Original Musicals
3) Expansion of the Territory of Musicals
4) The Era of Musicals
* As has become clear in the first volume’s chapter on “The Boom of Musical Theater” (2.6), terminology of “music-theatre” is rather complex and historically determined. In the post-war period of the 50s, in the advent of Broadway-style “musical” (뮤지컬), akgeuk was a genre of light, popular theatre employing teuroteu (트로트, “trot”) music, in some ways probably comparable to operetta, while gageuk (가극) mostly refers to school or church activities by non-professional actors and singers. The translations of all these terms remain probationary.

CHAPTER FOUR: Inheritance and Development of Traditional Styles

1. Attempts of Ritual Theatre and the Pursuit of Ceremonialism

1) “Primitive” Theatre (wonsi-geuk, 원시극) of the Shamans
2) Ritual (gut, 굿) and Ritual Theatre (gutgeuk, 굿극)
3) Search and Unfolding of Ritual Theatre
4) Ritual Theatre and Cultural Reciprocity
5) Lee Yun-taek and Ritual Theatre
6) Significance and Tasks of Ritual Theatre

2. The Inheritance of Mask Dance Theatre and Mask Games

1) The Transmission of Mask Theatre (gamyeon-geuk, 가면극)*
2) Rise and Experiments of Mask Dance Theatre (talchum-geuk, 탈춤극)
3) Lee Seung-gyu’s (이승규, 1939–) Mask Dance Theatre
4) Chae Hui-wan’s (채희완, 1948–) Mask Dance Theatre
5) Significance and Tasks of Mask Dance Theatre
* The nomenclature concerning mask-related theatre is a bit confusing. Some scholars consider the common term talchum (탈춤, lit. “mask-dance”, generally used for historical as well as modern practices in that tradition) too narrow as not all of the traditional forms involve dancing—the term tal-nori (탈놀이, “mask-games”) seems preferable when subsuming regional genres like sandae talnori (산대탈놀이, “play at the mountain stage”), o-gwangdae-nori (오광대놀이, “play of the five clowns”), byeolsingut-noreum (별신굿놀음, “peculiar ritual-play”) or saja-talnoreum (사자탈놀음, “lion-maskplay”). The Sino-Korean word gamyeon-geuk (가면극, “mask-theatre”) is also rather broad but is kind of stigmatized for its introduction in the Colonial period. Suh uses the term talchum-geuk (탈춤극, “mask-dance-theatre”) for “theatre that tries to continue and recreate the spirit and the methods of these traditional mask dances” (p. 350).

3. The Value of Kkokdu Theatre and Contemporary Puppet Theatre

1) Contemporary Kkokdu Theatre” (kkokdu-geuk, 꼭두극)*
2) Sim U-seong’s (심우성, 1934–) Kkokdu Theatre
3) Various Experiments with Kkokdu Theatre
4) Significance and Tasks of Kkokdu Theatre
* Similar to mask dance theatre, there is a debate whether to use the more general term inhyeong-geuk (인형극, lit. “puppet-theatre”, a Sino-Korean word based on the characters 人形劇) or the historical term kkokdu-geuk (꼭두극, lit. “puppet-theatre”, relating to the representative traditional puppet-play kkokdugaksi-noreum [꼭두각시놀음], the “play of the puppet-bride” with the bride as a central character) for puppet theatre in general. While Suh uses the term inhyeong-geuk for puppetry in general, kkokdu-geuk (as well as, in a more loose sense, inhyeong-nori) is reserved for theatre that specifically places itself in the tradition of kkokdugaksi-noreum.

4. The Revival of Joke Theatre and the Tradition of Narrative Theatre

1) Witty Narrative Theatre (hwasul-geuk, 화술극)
2) Joke Theatre (jaedam-geuk, 재담극) in the 1970s*
3) Oh Tae-suk’s Joke Theatre
4) Joke Theatre since the 1980s
5) Significance and Tasks of Joke Theatre
* Suh describes joke theatre as “one or two actors who use witty words to satirize the realities of life and entertain their audience. In contrast to comedy (huigeuk, 희극), a genre received from the West, he regards joke theatre with its specific stylized way of declamation, elliptical acting, mixture of spoken and sung, as well as lyrical and epic passages, as a conscious continuation of traditional practices that date back to Unified Silla (7th century AD) during the “boom of revived tradition” (p. 373) in the 1970s.

5. The Emergence of Madang-geuk and Workers’ Theatre

1) Madang-geuk (마당극, “village square theatre”), Workers’ Theatre (nodong-geuk, 노동극), Minjok-geuk (민족극, “ethnic theatre”)*
2) Madang-geuk and the Spirit of the Age
3) The Heyday of Madang-geuk
4) The Rise of Workers’ Theatre
5) Significance and Tasks of Madang-geuk
* The word madang (마당) can be translated as “yard” or “court” (not the royal one!), or more generally as “outdoor space”. However, madang-geuk does not simply mean “outdoor theatre”, but rather “theatre that expresses the spirit of the madang” (p. 389), in the sense of a meeting. In other words: “Madang-geuk was made [since the 1970s] for the sake of collective creation [of a play] and collective performance.” (ibid.) The ‘spirit’ also includes resistance against the system, communication with the people as well as expression of the people’s consciousness, and of course the transmission and recreation of traditional dramatical methods.
Workers’ theatre is used in the sense of madang-geuk that is made by workers or takes a working class perspective. Minjok-geuk was used as an extension of madang-geuk and workers’ theatre, being able to encompass forms that were not rooted in tradition. For a detailed analysis of the practices and discourses relating to minjok-geuk, see Gang-Im Lee’s PhD-dissertation Directing Koreanness (2008).

6. Attempts of Gamuak-geukand the Necessity for Traditional Music Theatre

1) Traditional Music (jeontong eumak, 전통음악) and Music Theatre (eumak-geuk, 음악극)
2) Son Jin-chaek’s (손진책, 1947–) Productions
3) Lee Seung-gyu’s Productions
4) Gamuak-geuk (가무악극) in the 1970s and 80s*
5) [Gamuak-geuk] since the 1990s
6) Significance and Tasks of Gamuak-geuk
* Gamuak-geuk (가무악극 / 歌舞樂劇, “song-dance-music theatre”) is a provisionary composite term that designates “music drama rooted in traditionality”, i.e. a “Korean-style musical based on orchestral pieces that follow traditional musical structures and methods, featuring singing, dancing and acting” (p. 407). Thus gamuak-geuk is differentiated from changgeuk and (US-style) musical, as well as opera.

CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion

1. Significance and Tasks of Korean Contemporary Theatre

2. Abstract in Japanese

Bibliography

Index

— 29 Dec. 2010 (水)

  • 서연호,『한국연극사, 현대편』, 연극과 인간 2005.
  • SUH Yon-ho, Korean Theatre History: Contemporary Theatre, Yeongeuk-gwa Ingan, 2005.

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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