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The Title Role Goes to the Teacher in Heaven

Posted November. 22, 2004 23:14,   


“Teacher, I dedicated this performance to you.”

One heart warming play is produced in this winter.

For the first anniversary of the death of Lee Geun-sam, one of the most prominent playwrights in Korean theater who died of lung cancer last year, his students at Sogang University is producing a play on a stage.

“Traveling Troupe” will be presented from November 25 to 28 for free at Sogang University’s Mary Hall. This production was directed by Lee’s former student, professor Kim Yong-Soo (Journalism), and is performed and staffed by 35 student volunteers who are mostly undergraduate journalism students and graduate performance students.

When the reporter visited Mary Hall at 9:00 p.m. on November 18, the cast was absorbed in the rehearsal. Except for a few performance major graduate students who have full time jobs as voice actors or theater producers, most of the students have never been parts of a theater production. Their diction was clumsy and the movement was unstable. But the serious and passionate expression of their eyes is nothing less than that of professional actors; after all, they have been spending all their evenings and weekends for this theater production for a month.

Professor Kim said of Lee, “My teacher wrote about 100 plays in his life. He especially loved poor (financially challenged) theaters and people of theater.” He explains, “I picked ‘Traveling Troupe’ as a memorial production because it seems to illustrate the reality of Korean theater most clearly.”

Professor Kim put up a posting at the university to look for volunteers for the play in September. Among the 35 people working on this production, Kim is the only direct student of the late playwright. Students who learned drama through Lee’s works gathered gradually to work on the production. Jang So-jung (20, Journalism, junior) said, “Although I wasn’t taught by Lee in person, I am very honored to participate in this memorial performance for someone who so greatly influenced Korean theater.”

The production cost is 10 million won. Many alumni who remember the late teacher donated money, and the students went out to raise the fund of seven million won. The university let them use newly renovated Mary Hall.

“… I loaded the dream for a play in a cart and went forward. I climbed a mountain and crossed a river, reaching out for the goal. I never let go of the cart even when I was so exhausted that I had to crawl. This was our life in theater.”

The rehearsal ended with a last line which sounded like a dedication to Lee. One by one, actors came back to the stage for a curtain call but the center spot for the main title role remained unfilled. Suddenly, all actors turned back, reaching out their hands to the screen hanging on the back of the stage. Among the actor’s applause, the late teacher’s smiling face was projected on the screen.

Thursday 7:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 3:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m., Sunday 3:00 p.m.

Information 011-9891-0126

Sue-Jean Kang sjkang@donga.com