‘(A)pollonia’ kicks off Seoul Performing Arts Festival

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‘(A)pollonia’ kicks off Seoul Performing Arts Festival

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“(A)pollonia,” left, is a Polish play that will open the 12th Seoul Performing Arts Festival at 6 tonight at the main hall of the Arko Arts Center in Daehangno, central Seoul. The festival includes a total of 27 performances through Oct. 27. Nine are plays, including “Bernarda,” by Korean group Notteul, bottom right. Others are dance works, such as the French production “Soapera,” top right. Provided by the Hanguk Performing Arts Center


Korea and Poland are about 5,000 miles apart, but their modern histories are all too similar. Both were victims of brutal invasions during the 20th century and witnessed the sacrifices of their citizens living under foreign regimes.

That is a main reason why the Seoul Performing Arts Festival is beginning its run with “(A)pollonia,” a play by renowned Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski that centers on the story of a woman in a Nazi concentration camp.

The performance, the first of 27 works to be staged during the festival, will be held tonight. It premiered in Warsaw in 2009 and is an abstract composition of movements, images and texts that tell the story of a fictional Polish woman named Apolonia, who traded her life for the lives of 25 Jews at a Nazi camp.

Apolonia is the main character of a novel by Polish writer Hanna Krall, and Warlikowski uses her along with two other fictional personas from other plays about sacrifice - Euripides’ “Alcestis” and Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” - to question the relationship between true sacrifice and righteousness.

Choi Chy-rim, president of the Hanguk Performing Arts Center, which organized the festival, picked “(A)pollonia” as the opening performance. He expected that “(A)pollonia” will make an impact on and connect with the Korean theater community.

“?‘(A)pollonia’ is a masterpiece that interprets modern Polish history through mythical and classical references with the help of lecture performance, live music, circus and media,” Choi said. “We think the audiences and artists will find it artistically touching and intellectually satisfying.”

Launched in 2001 in a merger of the Seoul Theater Festival and the Korea Dance Festival, the Seoul Performing Arts Festival has slowly transformed itself into an international event. For the first time, the festival will show English and Korean subtitles at all performances this year.

The 12th festival, to be held at the Arko Arts Center at Daehangno, central Seoul, and its surrounding areas, will showcase a total of 27 performances, including 12 from 11 foreign countries, through Oct. 27. Nine of them are plays, with the other 18 being dance or fusion performances. Five of the plays are from overseas, including two from Poland. Apart from “(A)pollonia,” young Polish director Krzysztof Garbaczewski will stage “The Odyssey.”

The Australian theatrical participation “En Route” is a live art performance that includes audience participation. Seven audience members will be able to participate in the performance at a time.

“Eu, Rodin” (“I, Rodin”) is a dance work by Romanian director Mihai Maniutiu that centers on the love story of sculptor Auguste Rodin and his pupil Camille Claudel, while French director Pascal Rambert poses questions of love in his play “Cloture de l‘Amour” (“Closing of Love”).

Among the dance performances, seven are foreign.

Ahn Ae-soon, the art director who is in charge of the programming of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival dance performances, picked “Soapera” as the performance to watch. The French production, made as a collaboration between Mathild Monnier, art director of the Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon, and French visual artist Dominique Figarella, uses various on-stage devices to create images like bubbles.

“Get a Revolver” is another favorite of Ahn’s. The German choreographer Helena Waldmann offers a new perspective on the socially stigmatized illness of dementia through the 60-minute work.

Among the notable performances by domestic groups is “Bernarda,” an adaptation of “The House of Bernarda Alba,” a play by the Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Korean theater group Notteul will perform a two-hour reinterpretation.

Seven local groups led by Momkkol will also perform a collaborative work called “Nomadic Festival Immemorable Times.”

On the sidelines of the main event, organizers will exhibit artwork that won awards at the Festival des Bains Numeriques, a digital arts festival in France, including works by Taiwanese artist Zhan Jia-hua.

The Seoul Dance Collection will also be held during the event. The collection provides amateur choreographers with possible entry into the profession. This year, several foreign directors such as Thomas Hahn, Sven Till and Takao Norikoshi will be a part of the nine-member panel.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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