Theater lion refuses to lie down quietly

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Theater lion refuses to lie down quietly

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Disney’s musical “The Lion King,” produced by Japan’s Shiki Theatre Company, has again engendered a controversy. Kim Hyo-gyeong, 61, the co-director of the show that will open in Korea later this month, was fired in early September. He had directed the Korean actors for the show in Japan.
“As they now see no problems in staging the show in Korea, Shiki discarded me because I had served my purpose. I shudder at the betrayal,” Mr. Kim said. Korean musical producers have been uspet that the Japanese production will be the inaugural show at the new Charlotte Theater in Jamsil, southern Seoul, the first purpose-built musical theater in Korea. The Shiki production is expected to stay as long as three years.
Mr. Kim has known Keita Asari, the theater company’s chief executive, since 2003, and has helped many Korean actors enter the Shiki Theatre Company. He has also actively defended Shiki’s involvement in Korea. Mr. Kim answered questions last week.

Q. When did you come back to Korea?
A. On Sept. 2. I was told to pack and go back to Korea the next day. I told them several times that ‘I won’t come back if I go to Korea now,’ but they didn’t react.

What was the problem?
Many actors limped because they hurt their knees while practicing. ‘The rubber floor is the cause. Under these circumstances, the theater will be filled with injured actors,’ I told one of Shiki’s choreographers. Then he took it as an insult and gossiped about me. But this kind of discord is a minor thing that can happen during any production.
Do you mean that there’s another reason?
Mr. Asari seemed to feel awkward. He hired me as co-director, but it seems that he actually expected me to just be an assistant. I thought I should actively participate in directing in order to find Korea’s nuances, because the show is translated into Korean. There were some actors who didn’t have a command of Korean, so I said they should be replaced. [Mr. Asari] was very unhappy that I was involved in casting.

Are there any other Korean staff or actors who were fired?
A music director who went to Shiki with me was also fired. Kim Ji-hyeon, 33, the first Korean actress in Shiki’s history, was also kicked out. Shiki is like Mr. Asari’s kingdom. Those who state a different opinion are ruthlessly fired because it is taken as a challenge to his authority. Leadership is important, but good stage art is created through communication.

Do you still agree with Shiki’s entrance into Korea?
We can make inroads abroad when we open our market. Opposing Shiki’s entrance into Korea is a shortsighted idea but I don’t trust Shiki anymore. Now, I doubt if Mr. Asari will keep his word, such as that he will invest every single penny [Lion King] earns in Korea here, or that Shiki won’t stage another licensed show in Korea or monopolize the Charlotte.

Jang Hyuk-jean, general manager of the Seoul Office of the Shiki Theatre Company, said Mr. Kim was fired for philosophical reasons. “We couldn’t work together with Mr. Kim because his opinion on the show was very different from Mr. Asari’s. We financially compensated him,” he said.


by Choi Min-woo

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