November 5th, 2010
In the morning I went to the Korean History class, but I was so exhausted I could pay attention well. I mostly fought falling asleep and didn’t get much out of the class. After class I headed home, but in the evening I was able to go to the 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli special rehearsal for 이수자 isuja. I’m not an isuja, which is generally someone who’s been learning more than ten years and is a well established regular performer, but I try very hard to maintain a very good relationship with everyone in the mask dance group, and was allowed to come in my capacity as a researcher (and didn’t know to what degree I’d be allowed to practice). I did, however, get told to follow along with basic exercises.
I arrived an hour early with a snack to share with 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk in the office. I gave her a full report on the meeting of the mask dance groups, and then while I was talking others started to arrive and discuss what time to leave for 남원 Namwon where we will be performing in two weeks. 이영순 Yi Yeongsun and I are discussing her helping me a bit with my drumming, as she’s a professional drumming teacher, so we sat together and she explained to me about the differences in the 장단 jangdan or rhythmic patterns used in different mask dance dramas. Songpa uses 타령taryeong a lot but 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae, for example, uses much more 굿거리 gutgeori. I want to not only know this sort of thing well enough to explain it to someone, I want to be able to drum each competently for an on the spot demonstration of what I mean. At the isuja practice there were two musicians (on 장구 janggu and 피리 piri) and seven dancers (not counting myself). Five of the dancers were in modernized hanbok pants, the men were in the matching tops as well.
The practice operated much as other practices do, first everyone practiced the basic motions. When we practice the basic motions one person (a senior person) at the front of the room will call out the name of the next motion as we’re at the end of the previous motion. I find this a bit hard because if I’m at the back of the group, I’m far from the caller, who is near the drum, and some of the names of the motions sound a lot alike… When they call out the motions the motion is called and then the caller uses low form, “gaja” (let’s go) as the ending. Not sure why it’s low form, perhaps just cause it’s shorter, perhaps because it’s not actually directly talking in low form to anyone in particular. After the basic run through, the group began practicing for the next morning’s performance for a different group of elderly (at a different location than the last two performances for elderly). There was a lot of discussion (this seems particularly after seeing the performance of 강릉관노 가면극 Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeon’geuk) of how to reduce speaking and increase the miming in the performances. The discussion centered in large part around where and how to cut out various content to make a satisfying performance. Most groups have ways to adjust their performances to fit the circumstances, and only perform the full versions once a year. Songpa has developed some of this, but perhaps now they feel a need to develop more short-cuts. At any rate as they discussed chopping various bits out of Act 3 (옴중/먹중 놀이) certain members were a bit disturbed (“if you cut out that part, then the character won’t even be Omjung anymore!” one of them said). As they practiced 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk also packed the bags for the following day’s performance. At one point 탄종원 Tan Jongwon was reading the 대사 daesa off his iphone! I wish I had a good photo of that!
Cell photo of packing the bags:
After running through the basic motions one more time 8 of us head out to dinner, it felt very comfortable all together- no need for alcohol, just sitting down like family to enjoy a meal. These people truly know each other very very well. 양홍기 Yang Hong’gi was one of the people at practice, and he dropped me at 강남 Gangnam since it was on their way home.