Festivals struggle after Sewol tragedy

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Festivals struggle after Sewol tragedy

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Left to Right: Korean folk music band Coreyah will perform the pansori “Sugungga - The Bubble House” at the Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival at 8 p.m. on May 15 and at 3 p.m. on May 16, at the Grand Theater of Uijeongbu Arts Center, Russia’s Taganka Theater will stage “Net Let,” a poetic staging of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s verses, to close the 13th Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival. The performance will be held at 7 p.m. on May 17 and 18 at the Grand Theater of Uijeongbu Arts Center, Jan Kochanowski Theater from Opole’s reinterpretation of “Macbeth” will be staged at 8 p.m. on May 13 and 14, at the Grand Theater of Uijeongbu Arts Center.

Spring is usually a fun season full of performing arts festivals across the country. But this year, many annual festivals are either being toned down or are getting canceled following the Sewol ferry tragedy on April 16.

Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival, organized by Uijeongbu Arts Center to the north of Seoul, announced prior to the accident that it intended to increase its efforts to make this festival more “festive and popular so that it can attract people from not only in Uijeongbu but neighboring areas like Seoul.”

“The festival has been held for 13 years, but we believed that it lacked festiveness,” said Lee Hun, the director of the event. “This year, we’ll offer diverse outdoor activities, like outdoor music and theater performances, experience zones as well as the opening of ‘Cinema M,’ which will screen films related to music and theater. We’ll also hold flea markets where people can bring old musical instruments and either sell them or exchange with others.”

The festival organizers even came up with a new logo “Mr. M” and a theme song that was very bubbly and bright.

But the organizers announced last week that they had canceled “all outdoor activities, including fringe concerts, film screenings and activity zones to grieve with the rest of Korea over the tragic ferry accident in Jindo.”

The festival will, however, maintain performances scheduled for the Grand Theater and the Small Theater of Uijeongbu Arts Center.

During the 10-day festival, branded “Music is life, life is story,” five teams from overseas and four local teams will present “music theater” performances.

Music theater, according to the organizers, is a new genre they’ve been developing. “It’s not opera but is something that’s more diverse artistically,” said Lee. “We define music theater as a crossover of story and music.”

To celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare, Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival has invited the Jan Kochanowski Theater from Opole, Poland, to stage a modern version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The theater company, which is named after the 16th-century Polish poet Jan Kochanowski, has reinterpreted the Scottish play to make it “more cynical and based on a more provocative view of the world” than the original. It will be staged at 8 p.m. on May 13 and 14. Tickets range from 20,000 won to 40,000 won ($19.21 to $38.42).

As for the closing performance, Russia’s Taganka Theater is bringing “Net Let,” a poetic staging of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s verses.

“We’ve invited highly acclaimed theater companies from overseas,” said Kim Ji-sun, the manager of the festival. “Most notably, it’ll be the first staging of Russia’s ‘Net Let’ in Korea. Eighty percent of the 110 minute performance is filled with verses from the poet, so audience will be able to enjoy the performance to the fullest if they watch it after reading his poems.”

The performance will be held at 7 p.m. on May 17 and 18. Other performances from overseas teams include a Japan-Korea collaboration of the children’s play “Why Why Why Man,” France’s visual mime show “Magic Dust,” and Russia’s children puppet show, “In Our Fairy Tale World.”

Performances from local teams include a Korean musical, “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” which is based on the hit television series of the same title that starred actor Kim Soo-hyun. The musical will kick start the Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival with a performance at 8 p.m. on May 9 and then will be staged twice more on May 10 at 3 p.m and 7 p.m.

Other performances include the traditional pansori performance “Sugungga - The Bubble House” by Korean folk music band Coreyah and the “Babbling Perfordian Show” (sic) by Ongals. For more information about the Uijeongbu Music Theater Festival, go to www.uac.or.kr.

But the biggest cancelation appears to be Ansan Valley Rock Festival. Considered the biggest music festival in the country, CJ E&M, the festival organizer, announced last Wednesday that it has decided to cancel this year’s festival to “join in the grieving over the tragic accident of Sewol Ferry.

The festival takes place in Ansan, the location of Danwon High School, the school most of the young victims attended.

“As Ansan has been designated a the special disaster zone, we judged that it is not reasonable to hold such a festival in the city,” said Ahn Seok-jun, the head of the CJ E&M’s music division.

“It is true that not holding the festival this year will be a heavy blow, but we think that sympathizing with the pain of the families and friends of the victims is more important.”

The annual festival, which usually takes place in late July, had already selected most of its lineup, including headliners, but Ahn said the artists understood. Other festivals that have been canceled include the 84th Chunhyang Festival, an event based on the famous Korean love story “Chunhyangjeon.”

The festival was picked as one of Korea’s best festivals by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and has been attracting millions of visitors every year. According to the organizers, the festival, which was scheduled to take place from yesterday to Friday in Namwon, North Jeolla, has been “postponed indefinitely.”

“We’ve completed all the preparations but judged that it is not right to carry out the festival considering the victims and their families of the tragic accident,” said an official from the festival organizing committee.

“We express our condolences and we will postpone the festival indefinitely.”


BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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