Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bongsan Talchum Annual Full Length Performance

May 28th, 2011
I arrived at the 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum office a couple minutes after 10 and got right to work as a staff member for the annual full length performance. It was really awesome to be in the position of a staff member, a whole other side to what was going on, and I was definitely included and I belonged behind the scenes, it wasn't like I was intruding at all. Clear to everyone why I was there, even the few people in the group I don't know (because –everyone—is around for the full length performance, even people I don't regularly see). Before lunch we set up the lobby, hung posters, got briefed on our tasks, handled a few odds and ends of errands and what not, we weren't that busy and spent a fair amount of time just chatting. We being 원중, 하연, 수미 and I. When it was lunch time we went to a restaurant in staggered shifts (the performers were showing up by then, not just the key top people but everyone), when we staff members went the table size worked out so that one of us couldn't sit, so the office manager pushed me (the adult who can have a conversation with anyone) towards a table with 최창주 Choi Changju (professor at K-Arts), a guy I didn't know, and a 대금 daegeum player I do know, but I forget her name.

The conversation with Choi was rather interesting, as he started talking about politics at the 문화재청 Cultural Heritage Administration. There has been a move to limit each of the arts to a single National Human Treasure, which is a real issue for group arts where a huge number of different skills (in a mask dance drama there are the very different roles, the dialogue delivery, the motions, the music, the mask making, etc) combine to make a single art. It is arguably more understandable that for a solo dance form a single human treasure could suffice.

After lunch the office manager talked to all the staff about our respective tasks, 하연 had the worst one, as she was required to stay in the lobby during the show and just watch the show on the screen. 화연 and one of the guys who is a friend of 신마 had to help the women and men change their costumes and get tied into their masks, etc. The office manager challenged me to sell 100 programs (quite a feat with only 140 seats including the folding chairs and aisle-seating). I ended up selling around 50 of them.

Before we got around to that, though, there was a period of time where primarily the action was that of the dancers rehearsing. I watched part of the rehearsals. Everyone was extremely professional, making sure the microphones worked, the entrances and exits didn't run into each other, making sure the sound staff knew what was going on, etc. 장용일 Jang Yongil oversaw the rehearsal and moved people to one side of the stage or towards the center according to the visuals from where he was standing. He even had the National Human Treasure, 김애선Kim Aeseon move. During the rehearsal the really sweet photographer who had loaned me a battery during the full length performance of 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli showed up. He talked to me about his photography and I bought him a coffee to partially thank him for the battery.

When the ticket office opened 하연 had to check that each person with a reservation got their tickets, etc. while I sold the pamphlets for 2 dollars each and called out to sell more of them. I was pushy (telling people if they loved the art they'd buy them and telling students they wouldn't be able to write a good report without them). 가은 and some of the other K-Arts students came. They have to write a report comparing the May 5th performance of the K-Arts students and the full-length performance by the bojonhoi. I don't know if he was serious but Professor Choi Changju told me to write the same report!

When the performance started I was at the back, but the photographer had asked them to make the black backdrop, and from the back when I took shots I got a lot of floor (because I was looking a little down), so I moved. First I only moved myself and my camera, but then I felt bad about the video and moved that, too. Being up front was tough for the video, a little close, and I had to pan more. But I think I got some good photos.

The entire performance came off without a hitch, very wonderful. And the K-Arts students (원중 was next to me) and others did a great job with the 추임새 chu'imsae. However I was really irritated with how many people left during the show. I was know it was long (more than 3 hours), but people knew that when they came. The people who didn't show up (but had tickets) and the people who left early mostly came from the same category—friends of the performers. Although some students also left early (not K-Arts, of course, who all congratulated their professor after the show).

After we took things down and cleaned up we all went to dinner, it was a restaurant for meat lovers, I had a bowl of rice, several peppers, lettuce, and a bit of soft tofu (in other words, there wasn't even any good side-dishes there). During this dinner I interviewed 손병만 Son Byeongman, the interview was very good, if the setting noisy (will be hard to hear later) and I couldn't ask all my questions (I focused on the important ones). I like Son partially because he went back to college as a 30-year-old after he'd already had a job at Samsung (a highly prized job in Korea). 

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