By Chung Ah-young
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of modern Korean theater, "Eunsegye" (The Silver World) by Lee In-jik, will raise its curtain in Chongdong Theater ― previously Wongaksa ― from Oct. 3-19.
The play, first put on stage Nov. 15, 1908, will be reborn as the 2008 version directed by Sohn Jin-chaek.
Chongdong Theater was reestablished from Wongaksa, the first theater exclusively reserved for stage plays and traditional operas in Korea.
The contents of the drama, the first to be connected with the term "modern theater" includes enlightenment.
The work is based on the true story of Choi Byung-do, a farmer living in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, who was driven to death for a false charge by a corrupt provincial governor. It deals with enlightenment and resistance of the mass against the ruling class. In the province, the story known as "Choi Byung-do folk song" has been handed down from generation to generation.
The original work was a kind of changgeuk, or Korean traditional opera. However, the new version of "Eunsegye" is quite different.
The 2008 work is based on a story of clowns preparing for a play set in 1908 at Wongaksa and Lee's life and works.
The form of changgeuk will be put as a play-within-a-play. However, the biggest difference is its main theme. The original work deals with enlightenment in the earlier part but reveals a pro-Japanese inclination later.
The new piece focuses on the actors' life rather than the content itself because of its pro-Japanese content.
"`Eunsegye' is not Lee's own work. It's a work made by people at that time, like the clowns who work on the stage and the audience. Among them, I want to tell the story of the clowns", scriptwriter Bae Sam-sik said.
Bae also said that the play is important still today because it has a serious attitude and view on theater.
For the play, Wang Ki-seok and Han Seung-seok of the National Changgeuk Company will play the roles of the then masters Kim Chang-hwan and Lee Dong-baek. Actor Jeong Tae-hwa will take the role of Lee In-jik and Kim Seong-nyeo
will play Lee's former wife.
The play will also feature live Korean traditional music performed by "ajaeng" or a seven-stringed instrument and "daegeum", or a large transverse bamboo flute.
"I have been worried about how I can portray the play which has drawn negative views from those in the theater circle for a long time. I don't want to justify his pro-Japanese activity. Rather by revealing his shameful parts, I want to shed light on another aspect of his work and give back the honor to the then clowns", Sohn Jin-chaek, director of the play, said.
The play will be on stage from Oct. 3-19 at Chongdong Theater, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 751-1500.
A scene from "Eunsegye", Korea's first modern play that will be revived this month