|Seoul Arts Center’s CJ Towol Theater, before (top) and after the renovation (bottom).(SAC)|
Seoul Arts Center’s newly renovated CJ Towol Theater is reopening next month, with the premiere of CJ E&M’s original musical “Sweet, Come to Me Stealthily.”
The state-run art and culture complex announced in 2011 that it was renovating its mid-sized theater, then named Towol Theater, with funding support from CJ Group. The local conglomerate provided 15 billion won for the renovation. The total cost of the project was 25 billion won, according to SAC.
The theater’s original name, “Towol,” comes from the name of a modern theater troupe founded during the Japanese colonial period. Before the renovation, the stage, which is larger than most mid-sized theaters in Korea, was popular among many theater directors. However, while its deep stage offered more room for creativity, the limited number of seats made it difficult for theater producers to make profits.
The newly renovated theater now has 1,004 seats, adding 333 more to the original 671. It also decreased the number of seats with limited visibility, from 12 percent to 5 percent. The theater also now has an extra raised seating platform, aside from the orchestra section and the loge. All viewers in the orchestra seats are now able see the “facial expressions” of the performing artists onstage, said SAC.
Seoul Arts Center on Tuesday unveiled this year’s lineup for the theater, which consists of musicals, plays and dance performances. The list includes the Seoul Performing Arts Company’s patriotic musical “Yun Dong-ju Shoots the Moon,” Universal Ballet Company’s contemporary performance “2013 This is Modern,” and Korea National Contemporary Dance Company’s “Antigone.”
Seoul Arts Center said its priority is to support plays and dance performances with the new theater, and plans to limit musicals to up to 40 percent of their yearly lineup.
“The rental fee of the theater is 1 million won per day for plays and dance performances, while it is 3 million won for musicals,” said Ko Myung-jin of SAC. “The rental fees reflect our effort to support plays and dance performances, which are relatively less popular than musicals.”
In return for its funding, CJ E&M will be given three months every year, for the next 20 years, to stage original productions exclusively at the theater. This triggered much buzz in the performing arts scene last year as a number of small troupes criticized the conglomerate for dominating the property.
Back in 2011, the theater was tentatively to be named “CJ Theater,” but eventually became “CJ Towol Theater” after local theatrical organizations strongly protested. The opponents argued the term “Towol” has significance in the history of local theater, as it reflects the days of the Japanese colonial period.
“We started the project with good intentions,” said Min Ji-hye from CJ E&M. “Many theater venues overseas are named after their donors. We hope to bring more opportunities to the local theater scene with this newly renovated theater.”
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org