Korean Theatre Summit in Washington, D.C.

I just got the news today, oh boy, on an event that I’d certainly love to attend—if it weren’t in Washington, D.C.… The title of this year’s “Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium” (the 19th) is just as intriguing as the list of speakers:

“Staging Korea: Korean Theatre in Search of New Aesthetics”

The 19th Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium in the Korean Humanities

The George Washington University, Harry Harding Auditorium, 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052

Saturday, November 5, 2011, 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Featured Speakers: Ah-jeong Kim, Suk-Young Kim, Esther Kim Lee, Chan E. Park, Alexander Huang, Richard Nichols.

And, as a special guest, Oh Tae-suk (오태석, founder of Mokhwa Repertory Company 극단목화, playwright and director) will discuss his work (“Leaps, Omissions, Surprises, Spontaneity: My Forty Years of Theatrical Experimentation”) and a video of his most recent production of Shakespeare (The Tempest, 템페스트, 2010–) will be screened a day before the colloquium.

See an invitation and a detailed program online. There is also a nice 10-minute feature on Oh Tae-suk produced by Global ShakespearesThis video archive is highly recommendable anyway—it even features a full-length video of the aforementioned Tempest!

Apart from the pansori-expert Chan E. Park who I’ve already mentioned several times (here, here, and here), I haven’t had the chance to meet any of those scholars personally. Still, reading (some or parts of) their texts gave me a bit of an impression of their work.

  • Ah-jeong Kim (California State Univ., Northridge, see faculty page) not only translated various plays by Oh Tae-suk (together with Robert B. Graves) but also wrote an interesting dissertation on The modern uses of tradition in contemporary Korean theatre (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 1995)—an important background for my own dissertation project. Her upcoming book (or has it been already published?) on Shamans in Contemporary Korean Theatre looks promising, too (see an overview at amazon).
  • Suk-Young Kim (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, see faculty page) has worked extensively on propaganda performances and cinema in North Korea and draws interesting parallels between representation of nationhood and everyday performance in this Illusive Utopia (thus the title of her 2010 book). See also her broader dissertation (Northwestern Univ. 2005) which includes a comparison with Communist China, as well as a condensed paper on the same matter (TDR 51.2 [2007], pdf) and another one on a “Musical from the Gulags”, Yoduk Story, “the first known performance staged by North Korean dissidents” that was a success in South Korea and toured the US in 2006 (TDR 52.1 [2008], pdf). These are, as far as I know, the only in-depth English-language works on theatre in/from North Korea (there are some coming up, though…)
  • Esther Kim Lee (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, see faculty page) has written A History of Asian American Theatre (2006), based on her dissertation (Ohio State Univ. 2000), is about to publish an anthology of Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas, and has written a lot on these matters. I have read her work only in parts, but it seems a necessary starting point for any further research in Korean diasporic drama.
  • Chan E. Park (Ohio State Univ., see faculty page), as mentioned above, is certainly no stranger to this blog, as her Voices from the Straw Mat (2003) is basically the only book-length study of pansori that takes performative matters seriously (only to a certain degree though, that’s were I plan to step in). An experienced composer-performer of pansori herself, her ecclectic, sometimes eccentric approach is a great read and offer various perspectives on pansori.
  • Alexander Huang (George Washington Univ., see faculty page), a seemingly ubiquitous scholar of Shakespeare—in the broadest sense possible of the word. More on his recent activities soon in a post on Shakespeare in Korea…
  • Richard Nichols (Penn State Univ., emerit.) has published translations of Korean plays (Four Works by Lee Yun-taek, with Dongwook Kim, 2007, see a review by Chan E. Park) and, most recently, an anthology on Modern Korean Drama (2009), featuring works by Yi Manhui (이만희), Oh Tae-suk (오태석), Yi Kangbaek (이강백) et al. (see a review by Suk-Young Kim—the world is small!). I haven’t gotten either of these books yet, I know Nichols writing mostly through occasional reviews of important books in the field, such as Judy Van Zile’s Perspectives On Korean Dance or a guide on Contemporary Korean Theatre, edited by Kim Yun-Cheol and Kim Miy-He.

Panel chairs from George Washington Univ., such as the linguist Young-Key Kim-Renaud, the social anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker, and the historian Gregg Brazinsky will most certainly add their perspective to the discussion.

Anyway, too sad I can’t drop by—comments by attendants are especially welcome!

— 5 Nov. 2011 (土)

About Jan Creutzenberg

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