A few years ago, daehakro was full of the vibrant energy of people who came to see plays and other live performances. In fact its role as a pleasant haunt was built up after the many artists came and made it a lively nightspot.
But these days live theater is in decline, and the glitzy hanging signboards are now seen as representing daehakro street. Live theater, which has been losing its enthusiasm and freedom, is almost becoming a nostalgic memory from people’s old student days.
So what are the reasons for live theater’s downward trend? Does theater actually have possibilities for the future? Last month, the musical finished its sell out season in Seoul breaking the record for audience numbers previously held by .
Even though it was from abroad and supported by large amounts of imported funds which made people worry that the culture industry is getting too commercialized, in many ways it provided hope for live theater. That is, those so called non-mass-supported genres like the musical and live theater can even attain popularity among the people.
“Culture and art are God’s gifts to help us overcome the limitations of human existence. From art and culture, humans recognize death and resurrection, and experience rebirth and moreover understand the world at large.” I read this once in an article.
This might sound a bit idealistic, but it has a lot of meaning in the art world these days. Since ancient times we have possessed culture and been part of it. Within this cultural context, in many ways the play is the most active method of communicating with people. The lights go down on the audience and one or two lights on the stage are illuminated. Couples looking through pamphlets, waiting for the performance to start, whispering to each other?
They all get into the play as the actors and actresses come onto the stage. The live actor’s presence and enthusiasm are fascinating things perhaps only a play can have.
However, there are still so many barriers that live theater has to overcome. One thing is that for many years our live theater has been suffering from small audiences.
Thus financial difficulties make aspiring actors hesitant about coming onto the stage. More and more troupes are abandoning and quitting their theaters. In addition, financial difficulties cause a lack of advertising. And that lack of advertising is also a further reason for the empty seats. This goes a vicious cycle for the stagnation continues.
Artistic deterioration is the second problem we have to solve. The live theater is also following the trend of seeking to stimulate audiences through sexually titillating style performances.
Slang and bad language are misused very often in live theater in all sorts of ways. The play can be superior to all other genres, in its use of language, beautiful lines, words, and speech that call up all kinds of imaginings. However, if things continue the way they are, we could ultimately lose the freshness and liveliness that are live theater’s special quality.
And the final task is to nurture many more creative works. Not only is the theater market small, but most plays are imported, remade, translated works, and we no longer have many works left which are created from our own feelings. Because of this shortage of those creative works, the play can no longer play its role as a critical voice on life’s realities.
We have been talking about the play and drama. Compared to the cinema, we enjoy each moment by empathizing and breathing with the actors, and harmonizing with the thoughts and feelings of the actors and the dramatist.
In our own lives we can’t repeat what is happening on stage. We can live through the people on stage. As if looking into our neighbors’ house hold, in the play we observe reality. How about going to the theater for a play tonight?