Forget skeletons in the closet, Daegu Theatre Troupe has been looking through expats’ luggage for secrets.
“Baggage Claim” is an original play with an unusual pedigree, being written based on true stories from expats’ love lives.
Cowriter JD Stewart said the name was something that was meant to convey something universal about the expat experience.
“It came to me as this is something we all go through in arriving into Korea, and again when we leave,” he said.
“The baggage on arrival and departure is emotional and physical.”
|A promotional image for “Baggage Claim.” (Mica Prazak)|
The development of the play began last year, when Daegu Theater Troupe asked people to send in true but anonymous secrets from their love lives to provide the basis of a new play in February.
The writers took these submissions and stretched and extrapolated them into plot threads and characters, before weaving them together into a play.
Brian McTaggart, the other co-writer, said that this was a fun process, and it was a difficult decision to leave some of the stories out.
“In writing the script we would share the submissions with each other, and often these stories would launch us into other tangents about love in Korea,” he said.
“The wonderful part of all this is that everyone here has some experience worth sharing and, because we all live here, can relate to everyone else’s experience on some level.
“Cutting any of the stories was tough, but at the end of the day we also had to produce a solid piece of theater that works well and entertains.”
The plot they ended up with follows seven expatriates, ranging from old hands to fresh-off-the-boat arrivals, at various stages in their love lives.
The play is a comic drama, something Jarrod Clegg, who appears in the play, says the subject matter is naturally inclined toward.
“I think the strongest aspect of ‘Baggage Claim’ is the fact that it mimics foreign life in Korea wonderfully,” he said.
“We are all a mix of so many different personalities, backgrounds and cultures that drama and hilarity are bound to ensue.”
Cara Markewicz, another actor in the play, said that although the story was based on true confessions, it went beyond a stage where audience members might be secretly wishing the ground would swallow them up.
“I think that the writers have done a great job by presenting the stories in a way that reveals the truth and reality of the situations but they have been sensitive, too,” she said.
McTaggart, however, wasn’t quite so sure, pointing out that there were some cringe-inducing moments.
“I’d like to think that kind of reaction comes from getting close to truths that aren’t pretty to face, and our play definitely touches on a few,” he said.
“That being said, no one has to worry about being outed or facing undue derision because of something they gave us.”
With these moments and others, McTaggart said there would be something that all expats could relate to, and this was what made the play so special.
“More than anything, people should expect to see something of their own lives in the play. This isn’t Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, or Dada ― it’s a play based on expats by expats for expats,” he said.
“That’s not to say someone living outside Korea wouldn’t enjoy or connect to it, but this is the audience we had in mind while writing and rehearsing, and we hope that it will ring as true for them as it does for us.”
The play runs Sunday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Woojeon Theatre in Daegu. Tickets cost 10,000 won and can be booked via www.daegutheatre.org/reservations.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org)