Japanese Troupe Aims to Lure Kids Into Appreciation Of the Theater

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Japanese Troupe Aims to Lure Kids Into Appreciation Of the Theater

Many theater lovers are concerned these days that the stage is losing ground in the battle against other forms of entertainment. Despite the value of the theater as a basis for education in the performing arts, children are increasingly drawn to the quick gratification of computer games and cartoons, which may not offer what the theater does in promoting independent thinking and learning while at play.

Plays targeted at children have had some occasional successes, and it is encouraging that the past few years has seen growth in theater companies that specialize in children's plays in Korea.

These companies may have something more to learn from Kazenoko Kyushu, one of Japan's best children's theatrical companies in Japan, which begins a run at the Jayu Theater in the Seoul Arts Center on Saturday.

The company produces "fun-concentrated" plays rather than the usual children's plays that dramatize fables with moral lessons. The company previously inspired children's theater companies in Korea when it toured Korea in 1996 and 1999.

Kazenoko was founded in 1950 to bring hope to a gloomy post-war Japanese society. The theatrical company grew quickly and, at present, there are nine local Kazenoko companies across Japan, including the Kyushu branch set to make its third appearance in Seoul.

Kazenoko Kyushu mostly performs in the Kyushu area but has previously visited Canada and Hong Kong.

In Kazenoko Kyushu productions, adult performers present a variety of recreational activities on stage, in which children are encouraged to participate actively, to think and to have fun. The performers use any medium that is attractive to children, be it pantomime, magic show, circus, or traditional Japanese games on the stage.

This time, Kazenoko Kyushu presents "Hey, Play With Us," a collection of fun stage shows, including hand puppetry, a shadow drama, a fashion show, skits using a rope and balls, an animal show and a puppet show using dragonflies made of bamboo.

The performers began the painstaking process of memorizing their script in Korean just a few months ago to overcome the language barrier. After each performance there will be a session for the children to meet and chat with the performers with help of an interpreter.

Performances will take place twice a day at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., except Monday, between Feb. 17 and 28. Admission is 10,000 won ($8).

For reservations, call 02-780-6400 (English service available).

by Park So-young

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