Best seats in a theater
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Going to a theater is always an experience, making one's heart flutter, whether it is to see a magnificent classical concert, spectacular musical comedy or elegant ballet performance.
Seat choices are just as diverse as the program and many people try to get the best in the house or at least the best value for their money.
Generally, the most expensive tickets are for the best seats. However, depending on the theater there can be good seats at affordable prices. The choice can be subjective and vary according to the type of performance and each person's priorities _ overall view, better sound or vivid details.
The Korea Times visited various theaters in Seoul to find the seats that were good value for the ticket price.
It’s the center seats
By Kwon Mee-yoo
For big musical productions, middle row seats in the center section are considered the best.
Kang So-ra of Doosan Art Center in Jongno, central Seoul, recommends the seventh row as the best seats of its Yonkang Hall. "The best seat will be different for everybody and change from show to show; we consider the seventh row as the best in general. There is an aisle in front of the row and those who sit there can watch the show comfortably with more legroom," she said.
Blue Square in Hannam-dong and Charlotte Theater in Jamsil-dong are two theaters dedicated to big musical productions. “In large theaters with over 1,000 seats, those in the center block around rows 9 to 12 are considered the most prestigious seats,” Kim Sun-kyung of Blue Square said. “The first two rows of the mezzanine are also good. For shows that have long vertical sets, those seats provide a good view of the stage.”
Both the Blue Square and Charlotte Theater have reduced the distance between the stage and the house meaning audiences are relatively close. In order to bring the seats as close to the stage as possible, legroom might be tight for tall people.
The size of the theater matters as well. The Grand Theater of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the Opera Theater of Seoul Arts Center are the two largest auditoriums in Seoul. So choose seats as close to the stage as possible in these theaters.
Some shows offer orchestra seats, temporary seats in the Orchestra Pit when the performance does not need the space for live music. Usually, these seats are very close to the stage and the audience has to look up with some possible neck discomfort.
In the case of classical music, front-row seats are preferred for solo recitals for optimal sound. The rear half of the house is recommended for orchestras since it provides a more harmonious sound than the front rows. Seats located on the left of the auditorium are sold first for piano recitals, as they are good for watching the pianist’s hands running over the keys.
Middle to back row seats are also excellent for watching ballet.
“Ballet is a composite art and it is good to see the dancers with a view of the whole stage and the lighting and seats around row 10 are the best,” Kim Hye-won of the Korea National Ballet said. “For dramatic ballets, seats in the front rows are better for appreciating dancers acting.”
She also shared a tip on choosing seats. “I also recommend aisle seats of side blocks close to the center as they provide a clear view, no matter who sits in front of you and they are relatively cheap,” she added.
More intimate experiences
Small theaters with 100-300 seats are clustered in Daehangno in Hyehwa-dong, central Seoul. Since most of these theaters are small in scale, even the back of the house has a fairly good view of the whole stage.
Generally selecting the best seat is similar to larger theaters. Center block seats at rows 5 to 7 are where the eye level meets with the actors. Sound is also designed for the center seats.
However, try to avoid seats at the back of the auditorium right next to the control booth where sound and light operators work, because light and noise from the crew might be distracting.
Seat choice becomes more important for plays with audience participation. "India Blog," at Culture Space Feeling in Daehangno induces wanderlust. It is about two men who met during a trip to India and a share their travel experiences onstage with music.
Those seated anywhere in the tiny 170-seat theater will have a good view, but there are golden seats. Lee Hee-young, spokeswoman of Theater Yeonwoo Company that is staging the play recommends aisle seats.
"In India Blog, actors pass through the aisles and sometimes they talk to the audience or ask them to take a photo. So if you like interacting with the performers during a play, front row or aisle seats should be your choice," Lee said.
But theatergoers love front seats
Kim of Korea National Ballet said the balletomanes prefer front row seats, even though they might not see the dancers’ feet in some sequences. “They love to see the details and even sweat on the dancers from a close distance,” she said.
Avid theatergoers who often see the same show on several occassions prefer front-row seats as well.
“Sitting in the front of the house guarantees the best concentration. There is no one in front of me and I can see the detailed acting up close,” said a 28-year-old theater lover, who goes to see plays and musicals at least twice a week. “These are the only seats where I can see the actors’ facial expressions even if they are looking down or are in the dark.”
She admitted some of those seats have partially limited views but said they are still great price wise. “Usually these seats are cheaper than the top price tickets and I can endure not seeing the lower half of the actor for a few scenes,” she said.