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The lowest monument in the world

Posted August. 06, 2020 07:40,   

Updated August. 06, 2020 07:40


“Everyone’s sitting one seat apart from each other, right? It’s quite unfamiliar, but I guess we’ll get used to it,” said Ok Ju-hyeun, a musical actress who stood on the stage of the Opera Theatre at the Seoul Arts Center wearing a shiny silver dress. The masked audience that sat one seat apart from each other must have been a bizarre sight to her.

“Did you know that when people wear masks, their expressions are more noticeable? The expressions are reflected in their eyes. Sometimes there are shining eyes,” she said. “I hope to continue to see the waves of white masks.”

Her comments were a reflection of a heartfelt welcome to greet the audience once again. The downpour of rain was heavy on that day, like a squall that is naturally common in Southeast Asia, but the seats were almost full. Those who had been hungry for cultural performance returned.

On July 22, public performance halls and art museums in the Seoul Metropolitan region re-opened their doors. Those outside the Seoul Metropolitan region are scheduling re-open schedule in accordance with COVID-19 situation.

It is exciting to attend performances and exhibitions, just as we used to before the COVID-19 era. However, there are some items to bear in mind. It is advisable to arrive earlier than usual to spare some time to have your temperature taken, fill out an online questionnaire on your health and submit the results via a QR code along with your ticket. There were several senior viewers that asked “How do I submit my QR code?” at the entrance of the performance hall. “Please make sure your mask fully covers your nose,” said staff members going up and down the aisle to check on anyone who had not been wearing their masks properly.

The actors and production crew of the musical “Rent” prepare for performances every day as if each day is their last. The plot of the musical is based on a young, aspiring but poor artists dreaming and singing about their dreams, is a completely relatable story for the actors who had spent several months not knowing whether they could perform. Fortunately, doors re-opened but one can never be at ease until Aug. 23 when the performance ends. Any actor, production crew, viewer infected with the virus means that the performance will stop.

“Almost all of the performance halls in other countries had to close down their business, everyone I know lost their jobs. It is truly a blessing to be on the stage in such times, we should never take it for granted,” said Andy Señor Jr., an American cooperating director for the musical who resides in Spain. The lyrics of the song “No Day for Today” is more touching than ever, making actors teary each time a performance is aired.

“A romance movie where lovers date and kiss in the streets have become a fantasy movie.” Director Min Kyu-dong’s words capture the abrupt changes brought on by COVID-19.

As we cautiously return to the world we know, we realize once again how precious the things that were taken for granted really are. In fact, there might be no such thing as anything “naturally given,” because nothing in the world is given without condition.

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com