The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Stimulating the Korean performing arts scene The role of Seoul Performing Arts Festival
What are your thoughts about the present state of the Korean performing arts?
At present, our theater district of Daehangno in Seoul is said to have more than 100 theaters. However, in terms of the contents of what I being performed there, I believe that the theater scene is past its peak and is now in a period of decline. There are probably a number of reasons for this and one of them I believe is the fact that small theaters have become the mainstream. The small theater world has moved in response to small signals coming from its audiences (the public) to become increasingly perceptual (based on specific sensitivities) and commercial, the theater becomes more trivial and the boundary between TV and theater is disappearing. Personally, I feel a sense of crisis. On the other hand, musicals have a strong and healthy popularity now. Personally, I am not very interested in musicals, but I have had the opportunity to direct some too. It functions as a form of live entertainment and I believe that it is getting more people in the habit of coming to the theater. Dance is outside of my field of specialty but I feel that it is a genre with a strong potential for growth. Being primarily a form of physical expression, it also has the potential as an international form of art. On the whole I would say that the Korean performing arts world in not in especially good shape, and that is the very reason why we at the Seoul Performing Arts Festival should try to stimulate the Korean performing arts scene by providing high quality works.

What do you think next year’s Seoul Performing Arts Festival program will look like?
We already have some candidates for the overseas works. For the domestic works we will continue to use the open public applications system, but there are some choreographers, directors and writers that we want to leave some of the programs to. The theme of next year’s festival is still vague, but it is beginning to take shape in my mind. They may be overused words, but I am thinking about “Confrontation and Harmony.” The reason these two words are joined by the word “and” is because there has to be confrontation before there can be accord and harmony. Still, I am not sure if this theme is good enough (laughs). Anyway, the selection of works comes first and the theme will follow. Another year of tough choices has already begun. Also, for next year’s festival I plan to decrease the number of works and increase the time span of the festival. This year we had four different works conflicting time-wise with each other on the last day of the festival. I want to create a schedule that will avoid that kind of conflict between works. In November I will be visiting Japan twice to do research for next year’s schedule.

Do you have any particular policies for choosing the Japanese works for your festival?
Japanese theater has a lot of diversity and I have always felt envious of the wealth of artists (writers) and works you have. There is a diligence to the writers that I feel, and it keeps them from being swayed by the latest trends or commercialism in their writing. The Committee for Korea-Japan Theater Exchange has a contemporary Japanese drama reading program and the work Hinemi by Akio Miyazawa that was presented in that series and in fact I acted in it. But, I don’t have any special selection theme that is specific to Japan. I simply hope to encounter good works, works of high quality.
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