Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bongsan Talchum by the Stream

November 7th, 2010
I made pancakes for Robert, Maya, Karjam and myself for breakfast, we talked a bit then our friends left for a rapid-fire trip around Korea. I know Robert’s going to fall in love with the country.

It seemed that only a few minutes later it was time to leave for the 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum performance in downtown Seoul. I got great seats (sitting on the cold ground in front of the first row of chairs) and took photos, although I’m not sure why I bothered since the background was horrible.

The announcer was knowledgeable about traditional arts, noisy and smiley in yellow hanbok. He asked people to clap and to do 추임세 Chuimse (calls of encouragement) and made an attempt at teaching people how to do chuimse (he forgot to teach them WHEN to do chuimse, so I didn’t hear anyone in the audience doing it). He said a fair amount about “우리 문화 유산” (our cultural heritage) and introduced some other upcoming shows (there and at other associated places). I found it pretty funny when he was introducing the shows after he mentioned several, and they were all free, he said “if the 문화재 munhwajae (cultural assets) performances are always free, then how do they live? (먹고, 살고).” Yes, that’s a very good point. I wish he’d gone into some detail about that! I have tons to say about that. The short answer, of course, is that all the events he was listing off were sponsored by various government bodies, or multiple government bodies, and the munhwajae get paid by the event sponsors. However, those payments are TINY compared to what they should be getting, and if there were subsidized ticket sales, perhaps they could be paid more. Of course, that might mean no one shows up, as happened with last month’s mask dance series at the Intangible Cultural Assets Training Center.

Bongsan Talchum performed three acts, first they did 팔목중 the dance of the eight dark-face monks. Incidentally, I’ve lately realized that I kept getting confused on the spelling of 목중/먹중 because it is spelled the first way in Bongsan and the second in Songpa. From now on I will try to refer to it with the spelling appropriate for that group. No one could give me a good answer why, amongst those I’ve asked so far. The performance, because it was abridged, only had solos by monks 2, 3, 4 and 8 (and those are the four with the 대사 daesa (monologue) that I have learned (mostly learned in the case of 4, I’m still not really able to do it without looking at the paper half the time). Probably surprised the people next to me at the performance that I was speaking the lines right along with the monks. Of course monk 8 calls all the monks (the 7 others) onto the stage for the group dance called 합동춤 hapdongchum. After that they performed the grandmother scene which I am SO tired of. This prompted the thought “why aren’t costumes made to accommodate pin mics?” I mean, to hide the pin mic to the extent possible. Hasn’t it been standard practice to use one for quite some time? And some characters, like grandmother, don’t wear a shirt that hangs down, so the mic is completely exposed. The third act was 사자춤 sajachum. When they (two saja and 마부 Mabu the lion driver) came out on stage I paid more attention to the dialogue, and sure enough, there was the point that 장용일 Jang Yongil was scolding me for not knowing on Thursday. The two saja (one of which was played by our very own 병호 Byeongho and 연혁 Yeonhyeok) performed mirrored movements, as in when the right lion moved right, the left lion moved left. It was really cool. The guys did a great job.

Photos: bad background, grandmother scene

After the performance ended they asked everyone to move backwards to make more room for 남사당놀이 Namsadang Noli. I had intended to watch them, but when I was told to move, suddenly I realized I didn’t need to stay, so I walked off and immediately bumped into 하연 Hayeon and 지민 Jimin from our class, they had left their bags in the changing area for the players so we walked down there. It turned out they’d showed up early and helped out a little, but were resentful. They’d called the office manager and he’d told them to show up, but then he’d given them crap work, neither wants to become a member of the group, and they pay for class, so they finally said “no, we won’t watch everyone’s bags here instead of watching the show.” They were pretty annoyed. 원중 Wonjung ended up having to watch the bags by himself. But he’s been asked to become the lowest level of group member (the level that means you might get in the role books in a few years (the level called 전수자 jeonsuja, which is what I am for Songpa and in most groups only takes a year to attain at most), this new level has seemingly been invented by Bongsan Talchum, as a result of their relative popularity, it doesn’t exist in other groups.

Wonjung, Hayeon, Jimin and I went to eat a late lunch together; I walked Wonjung to the subway and bussed home.
Photos: Hayeon and Jimin (twice), lanterns in the stream

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