While out and about with some friends from my old job one of them mentioned that her husband wanted to join us for dinner.We ended up going for bbq near by and while there her husband mentioned a show he’s been interested in seeing and asked if we wanted to go with him. I hadn’t heard of the author of the story it was adapted from or the story itself. But was told it’s the French Shakespeare. I love going to shows, even if I don’t understand the language and was prepared to say sure right away, but was quickly told that on Thursdays and Sundays they offer English subtitles and I became ecstatic.
The show was held at the Myeong-dong Art Theater which is a beautiful old looking building near the intersection of the very busy main street food streets that make Myeong-dong even more crowded. The building was originally used as a movie theater in 1935-1973 and from the outside you can’t really tell what it is since there are no big signs. There are 558 seats and 6 wheelchair spots. And depending on the performance they’re hosting they have English subtitles on Thursdays and Sundays, not just for the show I watched but others. Tickets can be purchased online or at the theater.
The show we watched was Les Fourberies de Scapin, which is no longer running but was quite good. It essentially translates to Scapin the Schemer and is about two young gentlemen who, while their parents were out of town on business, fell in love and eloped with different women only for their parents to come back early and either had already made plans for their future marriages (arranged marriages for business deals) or would not approve of the marriage (i.e. to a Romani woman). They turn, desperately to Scapin to help trick their parents into begrudgingly accepting the marriage or money. It was quite fun and silly with a couple ad-libbed lines that weren’t translated. (There was a typhoon in the area so I did catch a few of the jokes because I recognized the name of the typhoon.) There were also moments where the subtitles moved too quickly and it was difficult to look back and forth. But over all I quite enjoyed it. One special difference they made was that inclusion of Molière, the author of the story. While the rest of the cast wore caked on white makeup, to differentiate Molière wore none and would occasionally stride onto the stage to object or interfere with the characters from his writing desk or interact with them in fun ways. Sometimes it was to shout their lines to them when they forgot. They also included a fun song that they sang at the beginning and end.
After the show we went down to the main floor to listen to the director and some of the actors talk about the show. My friend occasionally leaned over and translated and the directors son bounced around in front of us occasionally getting told to sit down by the staff until eventually his mom called him over to sit with him. He told my friend’s husband that he was quite proud of his dad and pointed him out. (Though I think he was probably very bored during the Q&A since he kept jumping up and twisting around in his seat) When we left, one of the actors was waiting for us, since he was friends with my friend’s husband and we all went out for chicken afterwards and he talked to us about the show and his other projects. I learned about changes made in the acting world since the Metoo movement, like instead of practicing lines whenever and together on your own everyone must now work all together which creates long hours for everyone. But I’m sure, despite it’s somewhat inconvenience it creates some safety and accountability and one could hope some team (cast?) bonding. I also learned that the make up the characters wore in the show took several hours to apply.
If you want to see a show while in Korea you can find their website in English here. When you click on “Find out More” there will be all the information for times, ticket prices, length, and language. (As well as what ages they think the show is suitable for) If there’s subtitles it should say under Korean “* English subtitles will be provided on every Thursday and Sunday.” The days of the week may change, but so far the ones I’ve seen on their website say that above statement. Below that, on the website, will be information about the show. This website also includes shows for other theaters that are a part of the National Theater Company like the Myeong-dong theater.