Korean Rituals Focus
USITT VP-International Activities
Last summer, OISTAT sponsored the initial Asian Ritual
Festival Workshop, centered on the celebrations of the Ghost Festival
in Taiwan. Participants from several points on the globe experienced
different traditional events from a variety of ethnic groups around Taipei,
and then created performances as an artistic response to what they had
A second workshop in this series, designed to integrate
local culture and lifestyle with the exploration of design
motifs, was held this summer in South Korea after the meetings
of the OISTAT World Congress in Seoul in September. Building
on the essential belief that theatre is a reflection of society,
the objective of the 2009 workshop was “to express
a creative outcome through diverse experiences in a new environment,
the locality of Korea, and its historical era.”
teachers, Maija Pekkanen and Reija Hirvikoski from Finland,
WeiWen Chang from Taiwan, John Mayberry from Canada, and Sandy Bonds
from the United States, were invited to serve as team leaders to the
student participants, primarily from Korea and Taiwan. The workshop was
based at the Chun-an Campus of SangMyung University and was organized
by Hyesook Chang, dean of the school of art. She coordinated diverse
field trips to introduce the participants to different aspects of inspiration
from Korean culture.
Yongin Korean Folk Village was the first destination
providing inspiration from everyday life. An open-air museum,
the site contains over 260 traditional buildings from the late Joseon
Dynasty (1392-1910) complete with furniture, examples of food and traditional
medicine, and a staff dressed in clothing of the era.
Global Fair and Festival in Incheon, an international exhibition
juxtaposing technology and traditional arts, introduced the teams to
city cultures. Pavilions included a wide range of displays from floral
arrangements, a street of international vendors, dancers, and arts from
Vietnamese water puppets, to high tech robots, and digital arts.
third inspiration, from nature, came from a stay at the Sudeoksa
Buddhist temple in a beautiful mountain setting, where all participants
shed their worldly identities for 24 hours and lived the daily lives
of Buddhist monks, rising before dawn for meditation and a traditional
breakfast ceremony. The final inspiration came from sound through an
animated lecture/demonstration on Korean traditional music which skillfully
incorporated audience participation to illustrate rhythms and melodies.
Fortified with the riches of these insights into
Korean customs, the five teams then deliberated about their impressions
and aesthetic reactions to what they had experienced. In a few short
hours, the teams sketched, selected the locations for their sites, collected
materials and made shopping lists fusing their individual ideas into
five ritual installations for presentation the next day. Though each
team response was unique, they shared conceptual outcomes in their use
of natural materials, interactive participation, and wishes for positive
future. Though the introduction to technology had been fascinating, all
teams gravitated towards nature and traditional values.
reflected on the experience, “I
embarked on this project with few preconceptions. An esteemed colleague
of mine, Don Rubin, once counseled me that the key to international workshops
was to prepare as well as possible, but also be prepared to throw all
preparation out the window when faced with the realities of the situation.
I must say that in this case, Hye Sook Chang did an admirable job preparing
the students and arranging all the logistics for this ambitious project,
so there were few surprises. My favorite memory is of the busload of
international students (mostly Korean and Taiwanese, but including a
Bangladeshi and a Czech) laughing together the whole way from Chunan
to Seoul – a noisy, multilingual celebration of art, language,
and goodwill that would make anyone think there is hope for our species.
I am lucky to have been a part of this workshop, and glad to have been
able to work with Maija Pekkanen, Reija Hirvikoski, Wei-Wen Chang, and Sandy Bonds,
as well as my team of students from Korea and Taiwan.”
John Mayberry guides a flaming paper boat carrying wishes for a good future as part of the rituals workshop.