2014 is the year when Shakespeare Festival, a native-speaking play festival for college students, celebrates its 32nd anniversary. Its untiring journey has already been underway beyond a generation— unprecedentedly long in the history of our country’s English literature academic circles. Since 2003, professors with membership in the academic society established a drama company alongside with a students’ play contest, introducing native-language play performance directly on the stage, encouraging student festival, and enabling general public to experience the essence of the authentic native-language plays of Shakespeare. This year’s festival is particularly meaningful, as it celebrates the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
Through Shakespeare, this festival aims to offer a meaningful opportunity to contemplate on human existence and the course of life; it also strives to provide each student with a beautiful experience of youth. In the 2nd Shakespeare Festival held on September 27, 2014, student play teams from Kwangwoon University, Kyonggi University, Sungshin Women‘s University, Daejin University, Seoul National University of Science and Technology, and Soonchunhyang University graced the stage.
The professors’ drama company Korea Shakespeare’s Kids showcased a Julius Caesar performance. This drama company was founded in 2003 by professor members of Korea’s Shakespeare academic society majoring in Shakespeare and university teaching. Unique in performing native-language plays, this drama company is a non-profit organization that annually gives free high-class performances of Shakespeare’s plays to general public, scholars, and students. To revitalize the high-class native-language play performance domestically and to enhance its educational effect, the professors majoring in Shakespeare and often responsible for the translation or dramaturgy for the performances of established drama companies are personally participating in regular performances, a play per year. Recently, as a part of The World Festival of National Theaters hosted every fall by National Theater, Shakespeare Festival jointly held by Shakespeare academic society and the National Theater gave a special performance, for which it received an avalanche of favorable comments, gaining yet more support from the audience. Professors’ drama company is trying to implement performance sharing with the public and is also planning for performances overseas.
As a part of Shakespeare cultural festival, the Shakespeare Recitation Drama Festival Sharing With Citizens is to be held. In the recitation drama festival, the members of the People Who Enjoy Shakespeare society, made up from general public and students, can recite the dialogues from Shakespeare’s works and show off their voice performance abilities. The goal of this event is to provide an opportunity for the citizens who are less likely to be directly exposed to the humanities and, in particular, Shakespeare, to polish their ability for dialogue recitation, dialogue acting, etc. in a format that is similar to poetry reading and, through this, make them enjoy the essence of Shakespeare, as well as elegant global cultures. A collection of Shakespeare’s soliloquies featuring the Kwangwoon University students of the English Language and Literature department and some other departments drew a great attention with their peculiar monologue format. The director of Kwangwoon University explained this as follows:
“This year, we wanted to show the diversity of Shakespeare by showcasing individual soliloquies from various Shakespeare’s plays.Therefore, we decided to have a monologue show with each actor performing one or two different monologues from different plays.This not only showcases Shakespeare’s great diversity, but also demonstrates the diversity that Kwangwoon University students are capable of.”
Most actors were given two different roles to memorize, making thus the students face the challenge of portraying two different characters and helping them to overcome the language barrier. Shakespeare can be difficult to understand, so our students had workshops with both myself and the technical director, Amy Harp, to develop a greater understanding of the language and to drill pronunciation. Acting presented another challenge, so I worked with each of our actors to make decisions about the portrayed characters, varying emotional and vocal levels, and finding moments in each of their monologues. Our students worked hard and continued to develop and grow into their characters throughout this learning process.
Due to the simple nature of a monologue show, we decided to keep the technical aspects at a minimum. We wanted the focus to be on the language of Shakespeare, rather than on the flash of theatre. Therefore, we are currently using fewer music and props than in previous years, in the hope that this should engage the audience to focus more on the actors.
As we are not doing a play in a traditional sense, the flow is different. Each actor will come on the stage and perform a 1-3 minute monologue and then the next person will perform a monologue from a completely different play. We hope you enjoy our showcasing A Collection of Shakespeare’s Soliloquies.
Kwangwoon University team won an award for acting and had the ceremony of disbanding with the blessing of professors and presidents. We sincerely want this tradition of the English Language and Literature department to continue for many years to come.
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