Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 3 of the Korean Mask Dance Festival

October 31st, 2010
For Hallowe’en I went back to the mask dance festival. The performances were beginning at 11 with an hour break between 12 and 1. The first show was 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae so I made an effort to arrive early, I was the first person there, aside from the performers.

The excellent announcer was absent; instead they had this guy who kept describing himself as a gagman. He was comfortable with a microphone but he really wasn’t funny and he didn’t know anything about mask dance dramas. He kept just reading off the program. Seriously, he was standing in front of everyone, once he even told them after reading a line “I don’t even know what that means” and several times he directed people to pick up a program so they could see all the same information he was seeing. His prime activity was giving out mask dance bolo ties during the five minute breaks between each show. He also had to use the PA system to attract an audience before the first show and the second show (since there was a break between shows then).

The Goseong Ogwangdae performers were hung over. 고석진 Go Seokjin had clothes wrapped around himself and was hugging himself and huddling in a chair, I asked him what he was doing and he said he was soaking up the sun. 이윤석 Yi Yunseok (the director and National Human Treasure for Goseong Ogwangdae) And confirming it was coffee, grabbed a paper cup and asked for what I had left. I bet it was his first time for espresso and soy milk! The performance, however, was excellent. I was particularly struck by the large difference in the five clowns scene between Tongyeong’s version and Goseong’s version just because Goseong doesn’t have a –very- retarded yangban and retarded monk character running around during this scene (they provide most of the amusement in the Tongyeong version). Goseong’s version is much more dependent on dancing with long dance segments and very little dialogue. There is a perhaps somewhat retarded yangban in the Goseong version but he often is synchronized with the other yangban. Also Tongyeong spends a lot of time calling 말뚝이 Malddugi to the stage, but in the Goseong version, he’s there the whole time. I think the 비비 Bibi scene is the best in Goseong Ogwangdae. Just for fun today Yangban says to Bibi “Do you only want to eat Korean food? I’ve heard that LA Galbi (a Korean rib dish) is really delicious.” Of course that was a pun on the fact that they know I’m an LA person and of course the Bibi then comes to try to eat me. At another point Yangban finds one of the archers (another part of the larger festival in the same park that the Korean Mask Dance Festival was incorporated into was a big archery competition) and gets him to throw (not shoot) arrows at Bibi, one Bibi pretends be hit by to the great amusement of the crowd. [Video of excerpts from the performance]

I had lunch with 이상호 Yi Sangho, the leader of and a National Human Treasure for 하회별신굿탈놀이 Hahoi Byeolshin’gut Talnoli, 김학석 Kim Hakseok one of our Songpa Sandae Noli National Human Treasure, 서병무 Seo Byeongmu and 황종욱 Hwang Jong’uk the Goseong Ogwangdae office manager who was staying to run things all weekend, not going back to Goseong with the rest of the group. Hwang bought lunch for all of us, so I bought drinks for everyone afterwards. It was great to be sitting with these amazing mask dancers, I felt incredibly included.

The next performance was 수영야류 Suyeong Yayu; I haven’t seen them perform in several years, so it was great to see them again. There music was provided by nine 풍물 pungmul players including the guy holding the large banner, wearing white 민복 minbok covered by long sky blue overcoats and topped off by “flower” hats in solid colors, unlike must pungmul musicians who wear three or four color hats, and there were several different colors, some in solid red, some white, some yellow. They sang their way onto the stage, which was pretty cool, with one guy holding a microphone and the entire group singing the chorus without mics. The group included eight women, all in fancy top-hats of a court dance style, all wearing court style 한복 hanbok. The entire group danced around the central area, spending a few minutes on the stage, then everyone left except the characters for the first scene. The first scene is the yangban group scene, and they dance, call 말뚝이 Malddugi, sing, then repeat the cycle, until the third time Malddugi finally appears. In the meantime the simple formulaic speech has been picked up on by the audience, who begins to participate in calling Malddugi and echoing after what the characters say. At the end of the scene Malddugi leaves first then the yangban group sings themselves off stage.

Their 영노 Yeongno (a character like Bibi) has a large piece of black gauzy cloth he dances around with, when he finally catches the Yangban he nets him in the cloth and drags him off stage. In the next scene the 할미 Halmi (grandmother) character threads her face and catches and pops fleas and cleans herself up in general before looking for her missing husband. When she does find him, after their reunion, she goes off to take a pee, and her husband is so annoyed he takes off. When he comes back he has his concubine, whom Halmi fights off successfully, but she dies anyway. The audience makes a lot of cat calls to the effect that she’s not dead (as the actor’s bare belly is rising and falling visibly). Her husband goes through all the efforts to revive her, including massaging her legs, but finally gives up. “She’s dead!” his hand comes down “smack!” on her mask, “Dead” “smack!” The audience is delighted. In the last scene Malddugi leads out a big (three man) lion, the lion dances, a monkey enters, they fight, the lion eats the monkey (and the lion, now a four man lion, leaves the stage). [Video of excerpts of Suyeong Yayu]

The third performance was 가산오광대 Gasan Ogwangdae. The most surprising thing about their performance was how many key roles were played by women. Traditionally mask dance dramas were performed by men only, or occasionally using a few women for key roles (non-speaking roles like the concubine), but only in certain areas. Gasan Ogwangdae would have been performed by an entirely male troupe, including women’s speaking roles, but the head direction (the yellow middle) was performed by a woman, as was the 영노 Yeongno’s speaking half (it was a two person Yeongno). In Gasan Ogwangdae the five directions dance, then Yeongno comes to the stage and eats them one by one (middle is last). Then the Yeongno is killed by a pair of hunters (the helper is retarded) who use a real cap gun (surprising the audience). The Malduggi and Yangban scene has one old yangban and three identical younger yangban, but there is too much talking and it’s too hard to follow, a lot of the audience picks up and leaves during that act. The last act is the Halmi (grandmother) act, she is hit on by another guy, then at last her husband comes, she spends a lot of time spinning, the audience loves the sounds of the spinning and the sounds made by her son (Madangse).

Songpa Sandae Noli performed next, with 이병옥 Yi Byeong’ok coming out and giving a wonderful intro speech, including teaching the audience to do 추임새 chu’imsae encouraging sounds, at the end he invites everyone to come learn and tells them where we are located. That’s the first time I ever saw a group do that. [Excerpts from the performance in video format]

The final performance for the day was 강릉관노 가면극 Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeon’geuk, another performance I haven’t seen in years and last time I did, I don’t think I saw a whole hour of it. It was totally charming, lots of fun, absolutely no words! First they had 길놀이 a parade, and one of the aspects was a huge umbrella like dealy-bop with long colorful strips of cloth hanging down that was carried to the center of the stage where everything moved around it for a awhile, next to me were two Gangneung associated women and they told me it was part of the village (shamanic) rites in Gangneung. The other characters all marched onto stage as well, not many were masked, six I guess in all. The music was provided by a standard 풍물 pungmul arrangement with a guy on 태평소 taepyeongso. The musicians were in white 민복 minbok with dark purple silk vests, no sashes, and instead of flower hats they wore small straw hats on top of their heads.

The first act featured two buffoonish characters, called 장자마리 Jangjamari, in black costumes that tented out from the waist, so they looked large and very strange. They were wearing the same black fabric over their heads, with holes for their eyes and mouth, in lieu of a proper mask. I’ll just have to upload a photo. They wrestled and jostled each other, sort of like bumper cars because of the large tent around them, and behaved somewhat sexually at times. Next a young woman (소매각시 Somae Gakshi) and a yangban enter the stage, they are both wearing Chinese-ish masks compared to what we usually see in Korea. The Yangban has to work hard to court the girl, he tries things like bringing the hat of an audience member to her. After he has succeeded in wooing her two guys called 시시딲딲이 Shishiddakkddakki with Chinese looking white masks, and long black robes enter the stage and start to try to steal the woman. They tag team the Yangban and the woman, back and forth, there is a lot of fighting and a lot of recruited audience members to fight the guys in black (hit them with the Yangban’s fan and so on), it gets pretty violent. However as the Yangban tries to defend the woman he gets too rough in pulling her away, and they fight, he really hits her hard, which the audience was laughing about but I was not, repeatedly, and finally this behavior changes her mind and she likes one of the guys in black. At last the Yangban kills her (we think) and audience members have to confirm if she’s dead, then another woman and I end up on stage bowing to the umbrella of cloth praying for her to live again and in fact we revive her with laying on of hands, then everyone dances together, including me.

Afterwards I wanted to go home partially through a ride from some Songpa folks at least to the subway station, but Karjam (who had come later and met me there) was really interested in looking around (I was so not interested, I was exhausted after three days of simultaneous video and photography and note writing). We looked around some, watched the sun set, then waited for an hour until a shuttle bus with space for us (the fourth bus?) came.

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