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Show must go on, even if it’s online

Productions reach out to audience via online platforms amid COVID-19

Screenshot of 2019 Arko Selection’s play “Matryoshka,” streamed on Naver TV (Arko)
Screenshot of 2019 Arko Selection’s play “Matryoshka,” streamed on Naver TV (Arko)

While coronavirus cases continue to climb around the world, the performing arts scene in Korea is turning to a different stage: online platforms.

According to the Korea Performing Arts Box Office Information System, managed by the Korea Arts Management Service affiliated with the Culture Ministry, performing arts theaters’ ticket sales in February recorded 20.9 billion won ($18.6 million), nearly down to half of the previous month’s 40.3 billion won.

Since mid-February -- when Korea saw the beginning of an unprecedented national health crisis -- theaters across the nation have shut their doors, canceling shows and programs, to prevent mass contamination.

National theaters have been closed since Feb. 23, when the virus alert level was raised to “red,” the highest level, and the Seoul Arts Center and the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts -- two major performing art theaters in Korea -- canceled most of their programs.

To cope with the crisis, some performing arts productions have been streaming shows through YouTube Live or other streaming platforms, performing in front of cameras, rather than patrons in seats in person.

“K-Arts Online Hope Concert,” hosted by Korea National University of Arts, one of the most prestigious arts schools in Korea, is one such example that offers the audience at home a chance to enjoy stage art.

Artists play in front of empty theater, while the shows are streamed live.

A total of 30 artists -- students or graduates of the school -- each create a video five to 10 minutes long, released through the school’s website or its channels on Naver TV or YouTube.

The performances range from classical music and traditional Korean music to dance. Since Monday, two videos have been released each day, and that will continue until the end of March. Along with the shows, the university will release a daily short film created by alumni.

Another highlight is the “Sturm und Drang” series, seven-part piano recitals commemorating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

The first recital by four students from the university, playing the first four piano sonatas by Beethoven, will be streamed via the platforms on March 27.
The 2019 Arko Selection, a performing arts program funded by the Art Council Korea, is also looking for ways to meet with the audiences via online.

It livestreamed dance shows “Swan Lake: The Wall” and “Hit and Run” on Feb. 28 and March 6, respectively, on Naver TV. Another play, “La Rempailleuse” (“The Chair-Mender”), originally scheduled to run from March 7-15 but rescheduled to run from Thursday to Saturday at the Arko Arts Theater, will have Thursday’s opening show livestreamed on Naver TV.
Musical “Marie Curie” (LIVE Corporation)
Musical “Marie Curie” (LIVE Corporation)

Meanwhile, a recorded clip of musical “Marie Curie” streamed on Naver TV on March 2, marking more than 210,000 views, an impressive number for an online stream of a performing arts production. The 150-minute musical staged at the Chungmu Arts Center reported a sudden increase in ticket sales after the livestreamed event.

By Im Eun-byel (
Korea Herald Youtube