Women take to the stage in solo plays

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Women take to the stage in solo plays

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Four female bigwigs in Korean theater will be taking center stage at the upcoming monodrama festival at Namhansanseong Art Hall in Gwangju, Gyeonggi. Clockwise from top left: Son Sook, Ahn Sook-sun, Park Jeong-ja and Kim Seong-nyeo. Provided by the organizer

Four female heavyweights in Korea’s theater scene will be showing off their talent at the upcoming Namhansanseong Art Hall Monodrama Festival.

Son Sook, Ahn Sook-sun, Park Jeong-ja and Kim Seong-nyeo will each take center stage every weekend starting Sept. 4 at the festival at Namhansanseong Art Hall in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Seoul.

Sure, they might have some wrinkles and gray hair - all are in their mid-60s to early 70s - but with years of experience under their belts as actresses, they will play a mother, a daughter, a princess and more.

Kim Jeong-ok, the artistic director of the festival, said this is a rare opportunity for theater lovers in Korea. “We hope the festival can serve as a bridgehead for a new theater movement … which seeks diversification of traditional theater stages.”

It certainly is rare to see a gathering of such big names in the theater scene for a monodrama festival.

And the four actresses’ gigs all have distinct charms.

Son Sook’s monodrama is based on a novel by Park Wan-suh (1931-2011), an influential female author, about a mother grieving the death of her son. Park, whose son died at just 26 in a car accident, had said when she was alive that losing her son was the biggest sorrow she had to endure.

Ahn Sook-sun, a traditional narrative singer, will sing about filial piety. She will present “Simcheongga,” a story about a girl named Simcheong and her blind father that has been passed down for generations in Korea in the form of pansori, or traditional narrative singing. Ahn is the artistic director at the National Gugak Center and a professor of traditional arts at Korea National University of Arts.

Meanwhile, Park Jeong-ja will play Queen Jeongsun (1440-1521), who led a tragic life. Her husband, King Danjong (1441-1457), died young and reigned for only four years, toppled in a coup by his uncle. But the couple, according to historical record, deeply cared for each other during their short-lived marriage.

Last but not least, Kim Seong-nyeo, the artistic director at the National Changgeuk Company of Korea, will present the highly acclaimed “The Fairy in the Wall.” The play is based on a story by Fukuda Yoshiyuki that was set in the Spanish Civil War, but it has been re-imagined with Korea after its liberation from Japan in 1945 as the backdrop.

The organizers hope to make the festival a global one starting next year by collaborating with the monodrama division of the International Theatre Institute.


BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]


Tickets range from 20,000 won ($16.90) to 30,000 won. Namhansanseong Art Hall is located at the Gwangju City Culture Sports Center in Gwangju, Gyeonggi. For more information, visit www.gjcs.or.kr or call (031) 760-4480.

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