This year the State Republican Academic Korean Theater of Musical Comedy celebrates its 85th anniversary.
The history of the theater dates back to 1932 in the Russian Far East during the Japanese occupation. In 1937, as a result of deportation, the theater moved to Kazakhstan. Today, it is the first national Korean theater in the world and the only state Korean theater operating outside the Korean peninsula. For 80 years, more than 250 performances and concert programs have been presented on its stage, which have been watched by over 5 million spectators.
Elena Kim, the main director of the theater, told the Liter newspaper about the history, as well as the recently held festive concert.
– Elena Viktorovna, tell us a little about the history of the theater. How has it changed since its opening?
– The theater was founded as a mobile theater and was meant for touring. In Soviet times, it toured the collective farms. We are still touring today. But not only in the republic, we have expanded to the CIS countries and far abroad. If we talk about the repertoire of the theater, of course, at first there were productions that were revolutionary and relevant. But there are things in our repertoire that don’t change. These are productions that convey the traditions, wisdom, and way of life of the Korean people.
All performances are in Korean. Based on this fact, who is your target audience?
– Yes, the performances are in Korean, but with mandatory simultaneous translation into Russian. The translation is done and broadcasted into special headphones. In addition, we often put on theatrical performances. The Korean people are rich in traditional dances and songs. And the audience perceives dances and songs better than plays. Still, if the older generation knows and remembers the language, then it is much more difficult for young people to perceive everything in Korean, despite the simultaneous translation. I would also like to note the following: our Korean language is different from South Korean. It came to us from the Far East and is called koremal. Visiting brothers for Korea no longer understand us.
– In which of the Korean languages are the performances?
– In both. Both in South Korean and Koremal. As for the audience, despite how paradoxical it may sound, we have people of different nations come visit us. There are Russians, Kazakhs, and Uyghurs among them. They watch performances with headphones.
– What is the repertoire of the theater today?
– It is very diverse. We try to be interested in our older generation, in addition, we have a lot of guest directors. We cooperate with directors from South Korea, with Kazakh directors. Recently we staged a performance by Dina Zhumabayeva – a poem about love based on the play “Bayan Sulu – Kozy Korpesh”.
Where do you usually go on tour?
– Our girls recently came back from South Korea. Before that, we were in London in October. There we took part in a festival dedicated to the Kazakh writer Dulat Isabekov, his 75th birthday. As part of this event, the Korean theater showed Isabekov’s play “The Actress”. We played in Korean, the translation was in English. The play was warmly received by the British, they liked it very much. We also tour Kazakhstan. We went to Taraz recently. There was an event dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Koreans living in Kazakhstan. In general, this year has become significant for our theater. This year we celebrated the 85th anniversary of the theater, the 80th anniversary of the Koreans living in Kazakhstan, we prepared a big performance for EXPO-2017, then we had a national theater festival organized by the Association of Theaters of Kazakhstan, also held in Astana.
How many people are in the theater troupe?
– We have a wide-profile theater. In the sense that if someone is a ballet dancer, they do not just dance. The same applies to vocalists, they do everything with us. Today we have a staff of about 50-60 people working in the theater. We have 30 to 40 people on tour.
– And how was the festive concert at the end of November? Who was at the event?
– Due to the fact that we received an academic status last year, we, of course, began to prepare for this significant event from the very beginning of this year. In our presentation, we tried to show the creative historiography of the theater. We decided to get away from the sad parts, after all this is a holiday, an anniversary and a big date, and put a bibliography of the creative activity of our theater from the moment of its foundation. Usually in our performances we talk about the resettlement of Koreans and their deportation. Our guests were representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in particular, Vice Minister Aktoty Raimkulova. We were also visited by a member of the Association of Theaters of Kazakhstan Esmukhan Obaev, there were directors from all Kazakh theaters, representatives of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.
Malika RUSTEM, photo by Konstantin KNYAZEVICH, Almaty