Friday, November 11, 2011

Korean Tempest a Success

Co-sponsored by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, the Korean Embassy, and other units at GW, and co-organized by new GW English professor Alexa Huang and colleagues in History, EALL, and Anthropology the Korean Tempest event was a huge success this weekend, with over 100 people from the community and GW in the audience. The renowned Korean director and playwright of over 60 original plays Mr. OH Tae-suk visited GW and spoke at the colloquium on Saturday, November 5, to shed light on his methods of artistic creation and his vision for The Tempest. The filmed version of the performance in Edinburgh was screened in the Elliott School of International Affairs on Friday, November 4. Oh's Tempest won the prestigious Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival this year (August 2011).

Oh's Tempest (Mokwha Repertory Company) opened with a bang with a storm scene that transported Shakespeare's The Tempest to 5th century Korea. Prospero's book of magic transformed into a multi-colored magical fan which he handed over to the audience at the end of the play. Caliban became a two-headed monster (played by two talented actors in one robe) who is sawn apart. Oh adopts a remarkably light, fun approach to a play that has routinely been politicized in postcolonial discourses and to the volatile political situation in the two Koreas today.

Video highlights are now available online with English subtitles:

The editor of Shakespeare Quarterly and Folger Shakespeare Library research division director Dr. David Schalwkyk gave brilliant opening remarks, and GW English professor Alexa Huang introduced the film on Friday. She gave a talk on global Shakespeare on Saturday.

Students who attended the event were impressed by the deep baritone drums and turbulent music. They wrote: "The stage bursts forth with color and white robed dancers elegantly gesticulating with beautiful white pieces of cloth." The audience, they said, was treated to "a jarring visual portrait of the stormy opening scene." They were fond of the Caliban as two-headed monster (or Siamese twin) "consisting of a normal-sized man and his 'little brother,' a figure of diminutive stature. By giving Caliban two heads, Oh Tae-suk gives added depth to the character that can now converse with itself and have two separate personalities. In Shakespeare’s original play Caliban maintains several child-like features and has been molded by Prospero’s teachings as a child. Oh maintains the child-like aspects of Caliban within the smaller Siamese twin, often referred to as “Little Brother.”


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