I feel like every time I write a blog post, I’m explaining another one of my many hobbies. I really have too many. Most of you know about my love of reading, studying languages, and knitting, but I bet none of you had any idea I was a huge theatre nerd.
When I started 7th grade, I began attending an academic magnet school that expanded from 7th-11th to a K-12 school. We had required courses like math, science, and literature, but we also had to choose an arts course every year, as well as a language. We all rotated in order to get a feel for all of the classes and teachers, and everyone was terrified of the speech and theatre teacher, so I started out with art.
However, the art teacher scared me and I went from a confident and excited artist to one who was scared of making mistakes. During this time, one of my friends was in band and encouraged me to join and play saxophone. I switched classes and stayed in band the rest of the semester. However, I was a year behind everyone else, who had been practicing their instruments much longer than I, and my band director couldn’t spend time during class to teach me how to read music and play with the others, so I decided to switch to percussion. It was fine for a while, but I was mostly making things up as I went.
I longed to feel confident in what I was doing, like all my fellow classmates did. I decided I was ready to try out speech rather than go back to the scary art lady and the band teacher who ignored me, so that’s just what I did. My first assignment was to memorize and perform a poem. I chose ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, and I got a 98 on my performance. My friends all told me, “She never gives out A’s!” and it was the confidence boost I needed to keep trying my best in speech class.
After that, I always chose theatre for my arts course, and my theatre director became one of my few mentors in school. I got the lead in my freshman play, and I was on the Forensics Team (forensics as in speaking and acting, not science) and we traveled around the state (and sometimes the country) performing speeches, skits, and monologues. I was in love with everything theatre. I took three trips to New York City during my high school years, and I got to see Wicked (twice) and The Lion King on Broadway. I was determined to become an actress after college, but that dream competed with my love of Japan… (also my dad wasn’t keen on the idea of me becoming a starving artist.)
In Japan, I didn’t give up my love of theatre, either. I joined a famous theatre club (known as a ‘circle’ in Japanese) at Ritsumeikan and was on the sound team. I even became the sound operator for the last show I took part in before going back to America. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about technical theatre (lights, sound, props, costumes, and sets). I was in a few skits, as well, but most of the time I felt like I was passed over for not being Japanese…
When I moved to Korea, I found out about an international theatre group in Daejeon, and I knew I wanted to get involved. The auditions had already passed, though, so I decided to at least go watch their winter show. I got lucky, though. Someone posted on a Facebook group for expats in Daejeon, asking for someone to help with lights and sound, and it just so happened that it was for U&i, the theatre group I was interested in. (Like U&i on Facebook and support us ^^)
I messaged them about it, and they were so excited that I had a little experience doing lights and sound. The show was in a week, but we were only allowed to start setting up in the theatre the night before the first show. I got the schedule for the weekend, and me being an introvert, I panicked that my weekend would be swallowed up entirely. Friday after work until midnight, Saturday from 11am to midnight, and Sunday from noon to midnight… I was expected to be there the whole time.
‘Oh well’, I thought, ‘I need to get out and meet people, and a weekend of theatre is better than sitting at home, even if it will be tiring.’ Friday was just for the directors and tech people to get set up and ready for the weekend, and everyone was so nice and professional. The show was a collection of skits, and an intermission. Most of the skits and monologues were in English, but one of the longest plays was in Korean. The stage manager ended up helping me with sound cues, but told me I was on my own with the Korean play, as she couldn’t read the script.
I was excited by the challenge of running lights and sound for a play in Korean, but we were both feeling kind of nervous about the shows. Saturday, we started running tech with the actors, and we had a dress rehearsal. After lunch was the real deal. I went back and forth from feeling nervous to completely at ease. I had only seen the plays once all the way through, so of course we made a few mistakes, but we made some changes and after I got comfortable with the skits, the light and sound cues went smoothly.
It was great making lots of friends, both Koreans and expats alike. A lot of the expats are all moving (either to Seoul or back to their home countries) so I was determined to get close with the Koreans, since I plan on staying long-term. Making friends as an expat is difficult and sometimes heartbreaking, but so important because a rich social life keeps one stress-free and healthy. I’m the type of person who likes to meet lots of people, but I tend to only have the energy to meet one or two friends at a time. That makes it hard for me to keep a lot of friendships (especially since I keep moving around from country to country).
Anyway, the Sunday shows went great, and by then I was close with a few of the actors and directors, and Junkyu came for the night show to take pictures and video, and we went out for drinks and chicken after the whole thing was over. It was amazing to see; the audience was a mix of Koreans and non-Koreans, and we got a lot of laughs (and a few “awws”) and the performances all had subtitles that translated the Korean to English, the English to Korean, and sometimes the Spanish to both.
We had a blast working together, eating together, and making our winter show the best it could be. Running lights all by myself for the first time was an awesome challenge, and it boosted my confidence and my self-esteem. I was amazed at how professional and kind everyone who worked on the show was. I felt that everyone treated me better than I’m sometimes treated at work, or maybe that’s just because I love theatre and I have years of experience, compared to teaching kindergarten, which I’ve only done for a few months.
The weekend was exhausting but so worth it, and being in the lights/sound booth was a good retreat whenever I felt like getting away from people, but it was also nice to step backstage and get some social time in between shows.
I really hope I can continue to do theatre here in Korea, and I hope I’m making friends for life. This weekend I’m going to spend time knitting and recovering from last weekend, along with the Christmas pageant we are doing today with our kindergarteners… Christmas really is stressful when you’re an adult.