October 10th, 2010
Each of the Korean mask dance dramas and every other government protected performed art (not the craft arts) has to have one official full-length performance per year. In the cases of some performances they frequently perform the whole thing—because some full-length performances are still less than half an hour long, almost any performance can be full-length. For others like the 판소리 pansori epics, their full length performance is six to eight hours long (of a SINGLE singer accompanied by one drummer), so the full length performance is a big deal. When 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli did a full length performance in 2006 and I participated we had an introduction for each act (in both Korean and English) and it took over four hours. This year they tried to avoid having it drag on too long and the only introduction was by the guy who normally introduces performances at the Seoul Noli Madang, who is not a specialist in Songpa Sandae Noli, his introduction was exceedingly ordinary and less than a minute in length, and only at the very start.
I had some tasks backstage, but mostly I was able to do my own thing. Before anything started Karjam and I recorded an intro for the One Day on Earth project (because this being 10.10.10 it was the day of One Day on Earth, please see this link to know more), and I ran around setting out surveys. This time I was trying to do entirely scientific sampling, and I left it up to chance who would pick one up and there was no announcement or appeal that they fill out the surveys. At the top of the survey it specified who I was and what I was doing in just two short lines, but there were no pens provided. At the end I received only 11, which is apparently about normal in this type of surveying. I had set out 200 surveys and there were around 300 people that showed up for the performance although many only stayed a short time. The vast majority of the audience members were presumably from neighboring buildings and most were over 70 years old. I’m not even sure that it’s useful to have so few surveys returned and suspect most were from the wives of the performers. I’m so bummed about the low return I haven’t even read them yet.
After setting out surveys I helped a little in setting up for the 고사 gosa ceremony that begins the ceremony. 이수환 Yi Suhwan, who is insisting that these days I should call him oppa or older brother, showed me the two new masks he made. During the twelve acts of the performance I kept running in and out. I took photos from the audience, dropped off water for the musicians, and distributed 떡 ddeok (a sort of traditional Korean cake made from pressed cooked rice, in this case with black beans) to the audience. This was the worst part of the day, we didn’t have enough ddeok and people got really weird/crazy, grabbing and me and the box as I tried to give it out. The idea was that people could share it with the person next to them but people didn’t want to, they wanted to grab one for each person (each piece was really large) and devil-take-the-hindmost. The hindmost were people who were more polite and those too old to fight for “their share.” Anyway, it was really stressful, even though we all tried to move super fast and get it into the hands of the oldest audience members first (remember the audience was really elderly). I took backstage photos, carried messages from person to person, fetched the programs with English in them when a group of foreigners showed up, helped with setting out items and dressing to some small degree and basically tried to be helpful and document the proceedings. Afterwards I helped clean up, collected my surveys and talked with 함완식 Ham Wanshik.
My friend Eugene’s wedding began at 5 on the other side of town, rushing so fast I fell down and skinned my knee and bruised myself, we managed to arrived a few minutes after 7 (weddings in Korea don’t even normally take that long). We watched the tail end of the traditional 폐백 paebaek ceremony (mostly just the corny posed photo part) and introduced respective spouses to each other. Eugene’s new wife floored me with her good energy, warm grip and super sweet smile. I imagine she must be super special to end up with a smartie like Eugene.