Doosan Art Center nurtures young artists
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Nine actors sat around the stage at Space 111 of Doosan Art Center, Yeonji-dong in central Seoul, Sunday. A large black table in the middle served as a counter of a small diner and the actors entered and exited, according to their roles. The manager of the diner sat on the right side of the table and led the performance.
This is a reading for the musical “Shinya Shokudou,” or “Late-Night Diner,” based on a Japanese comic book of the same title. It was adapted into a television drama, first in 2009 and again in 2011. The show earned popularity in Korea, too, as it portrayed people’s individual stories through food and the genial owner-cook of the diner.
Three Korean artists — book writer and lyricist Jung Young, composer Kim Hye-sung and director Kim Dong-yeon — bought the rights to prepare a musical adaptation and worked on it for about 15 months.
Veteran actor Song Young-chang took the role of the blunt yet warm-hearted master of the nameless diner that opens from midnight till 7 a.m. in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Regulars include a stripper; a gay bar owner who has been running it for 45 years; a yakuza who likes small Wiener sausages; three spinsters who like Japanese green tea rice with different toppings and other equally interesting characters.
The songs were simple and honest. There was nothing to dilute the simple set and the earnest passion of the actors, so the audience feels full as if they had visited a late night diner. This is not a completed work, but a showcase for developing performances as a part of the Doosan Art Lab program.
Doosan Art Lab
Started in 2010, the Doosan Art Lab has been running for three years now. The art incubating project has supported a variety of plays, musicals and interdisciplinary performances. As the title indicates, the program is a “laboratory” for young writers and directors.
Though the possibility of continuing the projects to a commercial show is not definite, some of the previous works received critical acclaim and moved to bigger stages. “Moby Dick,” an actor-musician musical, staged as a part of the program in February 2011 was later performed at the same venue as a commercial musical last July and is planned to be staged again at a 600-seat Yonkang Hall from March.
“It’s like we provide opportunities to fail for probable creators or performance groups as much as they like,” an official of Doosan Art Center said.
This year’s program kicked off with an experimental interpretation of Ariel Dorfman’s 1990 play “Death and the Maiden.” Yangson Project chose three scenes out of the eight in the original script and explored it in depth. The play has three characters, former political prisoner Paulina, her husband Gerardo and a doctor Roberto. In this production, the doctor spoke his lines off stage.
“Looking for Primo Levi” was a work by Jeong Ga Ak Hoe, a Korean traditional music ensemble combining traditional music with their own compositions.
Musical “Late-Night Diner” was the third one and two more projects are in the lineup. “True Love,” written by Charles Mee, will be presented on Feb. 10 and 11. The original script is inspired by Euripides’s “Hippolytus,” Leo Buscaglia’s texts on sex, Kathryn Harrison’s autobiographical novels, the letters of Simone de Beauvoir and texts posted on the Internet. The work will encompass music, art and dance as well as text and acting to explore sexual issues in Korea.
On Feb. 17 and 18, the play “ear_TH” will be staged. Directed by Kim Han-nae, the play will maximize the use of sound to magnify the impact of the performance.
Tickets are available based on advance reservation through email. For more information, visit www.doosanartcenter.com or call (02) 708-5001.