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Edinburgh Festival Combines Traditional with Contemporary

Edinburgh Festival Combines Traditional with Contemporary

Posted August. 07, 2008 06:23,   


“Busy man.”

This is the nickname of Jon Morgan, director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. Having worked as a producer at a youth experimental theater in Manchester and a manager for TAG Theater Company in Glasgow, he began his latest job in June last year.

The following is excerpts from The Dong-A Ilbo’s interview with Morgan.

Dong-A: Tens of thousands of people from all over the world attend the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. What is the lure of the Fringe?

Morgan: The Fringe attracts not only world-renowned performing arts troupes but also representatives from theaters and management firms. People can grasp world trends in the performing arts at the festival and seize opportunities to make their names on the world stage. Most of all, it provides a venue where various cultures can blend together through performances.

Dong-A: Since Korea’s Nanta made a successful debut in 1999 at the Fringe, more Korean troupes are joining the festival. What’s your opinion of Korean performances?

Morgan: They are fantastic. I became interested in Korean performing arts when I saw Korea Fringe showcases. Korean teams have superior abilities in melding traditional arts with the modern arts. Last year, I was shocked when I saw the musical “Jump,” which combined traditional martial arts with contemporary performing arts. The same can be said for B-boy performances.

Dong-A: What advice do you have for Korean teams who seek to emulate the success of “Nanta” and “Jump” at the Fringe?

Morgan: I recommend thorough preparation. Though there have been great success stories like “Jump,” they are outnumbered by mediocre ones. British teams also fall short of expectations in the Fringe. They should first recognize what the Fringe is for and try to present their best performances that highlight the characteristics of the festival. Sophisticated marketing strategies are also necessary. The audience and journalists here are not generous.

Dong-A: Many in Korea say most Korean works at the Fringe are non-verbal arts utilizing martial arts and breakdancing.

Morgan: That’s not true. Last year, Woyzeck made a hit by staging an adapted version of a Georg Büchner play. As the Fringe is the place where different cultures blend, sometimes non-verbal arts are favored. But this is not the issue that only concerns Korea.

Dong-A: Some say the Fringe is turning into a commercial event.

Morgan: I hope many artistic works will come out down the road. But the problem is that we are suffering from financial difficulty due to lack of government assistance. Some teams who fail in the festival often go bankrupt. How to manage those teams and lead the Fringe successfully is my biggest concern these days.