Miryang pays tribute to Shakespeare

By Korea Herald

Small countryside city proves arts can thrive outside urban centers

  • Published : Aug 2, 2016 - 14:07
  • Updated : Aug 2, 2016 - 17:14

MIRYANG, South Gyeongsang Province --  One of the country’s biggest theater arts festivals, the annual Miryang Summer Performing Arts Festival is continuing its daily staging of domestic and foreign plays under the theme “Theater: Putting Down its Roots in the Region” through Aug. 7.

Now in its 16th year, the annual festival appears to have planted its roots firmly in the small city of Miryang, tucked away in the middle of South Gyeongsang Province.

This year’s edition, slated to present 53 live theater productions, marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a lineup filled with the English playwright’s masterpieces, including “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth” and “The Merchant of Venice,” as well as more modernist approaches to Shakespeare such as “Juliet’s Maid, the One Who Loves Romeo.” 

A scene from director Lee Yoon-taek’s rendition of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” (Theatre Troupe Georipae)

The festival is organized by veteran play director, writer and poet Lee Yoon-taek’s Theatre Troupe Georipae.

“I think it’s a terrible untruth for Koreans to solely associate the theater arts with Seoul,” Lee told The Korea Herald.

“You don’t have to go to or live in Seoul in order to see a quality show,” he continued. “One of the reasons we host this festival in Miryang is because I feel it’s important to have cultural arts productions readily available, even in the countryside. I think you would be surprised by how many citizens here flock to the theater to watch our plays -- any plays.”

“Just look at all of the sold-out shows,” Lee says, pointing to a large schedule board inside the Miryang Theater Village head office. “The theater arts culture here is just as significant as it is in Seoul.”  

A scene from director Lee Yoon-taek’s “Ogu: The Ritual of Death.” (Theatre Troupe Georipae)

The festival has already staged the two international productions that were invited: environmental German play “TRASHedy” and Label Brut’s avant-garde French play “Mooooooooonstres,” which were both sold out.

Still to come in the Miryang Performing Arts festival include director Lee’s rendition of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” following the life of an aristocratic Russian woman and her family feud.

Following the staging of “The Cherry Orchard,” the summer festival will come to a close with two of Lee’s most iconic theater productions: the Korean original “Ogu: The Ritual of Death” and the Theatre Troupe Georipae’s rendition of Shakespeare classic “Hamlet.”

“Ogu” is not only one of the director’s most successful theater productions, but also one of the most highly acclaimed original Korean plays. The story line touches upon traditional shamanistic rituals and depicts Korean culture’s constructs about life and death, while melding both satire and humor into the script. 

A scene from Label Brut’s avant-garde French play, “Mooooooooonstres.” (Theatre Troupe Georipae)

“Ogu” will be staged Friday and Saturday, while “Hamlet” will mark the finale of this year’s festival with shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Ticket prices range from 10,000 won ($9) to 30,000 won, with Miryang residents receiving a 50 percent discount on all shows. All productions will be staged at the Miryang Theater Village and the Arirang Art Center’s Grand Theater. For more information, call (055) 355-2308.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)