[ON STAGE] Theater Drums Up PotpourriChongdong Theater, which has hosted some of the city's most avant-garde performances, has also been a pioneer in promoting traditional folk performances. Opened in 1995 in downtown Seoul near the west side of Deoksu palace, the theater offers a series of traditional arts events, such as janggu (hourglass drum) classes and subtitled plays.
Every spring, they present the musical "A Woodsman and a Fairy," and in the summer, the renowned black comedy "O-Gu," a play featuring a gut, or exorcism ritual, performed by the veteran actress Kang Bu-ja.
The "Traditional Korean Stage," which has been held throughout the year since 1997, is another performance that is a trademark of Chongdong Theater.
The team that puts on "Traditional Korean Stage" has toured the world, presenting Korean dance, traditional instruments and percussion, from Carnegie Hall to Souni dal Mondo 2000 in Florence, Italy.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the theater hosts fan dances, gut dances, farmers' dances, pansori, a traditional one-person opera, classical court music ensembles and samulnori, four-person percussive performances.
On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, there are coronet dances, flower dances and solo gayakeum (12-string Korean zither) performances.
Aside from the performances themselves, the theater also organizes tourist-friendly programs. After the end of each performance, there is a brief photo session with the English-speaking staff dressed in traditional Korean costumes, and a chance for the audience to chat with performers over some free green tea provided by the theater.
Before many drumming performances begin, there is a 20-minute hands-on session for people to learn the janggu.
Chongdong Theater is located near the City Hall Subway Station, tucked in a quiet green part of downtown Seoul behind Deoksu palace.
There is a free shuttle bus from many of the major hotels in downtown Seoul, including the Grand Hyatt, Shilla, Hilton, Seoul Plaza and Koreana hotels.
If you are taking the subway, go out exit No. 1 and follow the small, tree-lined road beside the old brick wall along Deoksu palace.
For more information, call 02-773-8960 (English available). Or check out their Web site at www.chongdong.com.
by Park Soo-mee