Korea’s first exclusive English-language performance space improves stage access
Expat theater-lovers in Korea no longer have to suffer noisy drinking holes while enjoying plays thanks to a new English-language venue in Seoul.
Until now, poor access to theater spaces meant actors were often obliged to deliver lines against background clatter from cashiers and glasses in busy bars-turned-stages.
But White Box Theatre has just opened as Seoul’s first exclusive English-language performance space to save thespians’ strained throats.
White Box founder, Desiree Munro, opened the venue to overcome difficulties she faced when seeking stages for productions by her own award-winning company, Probationary Theatre.
“I had quite a lot of frustration,” she told the Korea Herald. “It is very hard for foreigners to break into the theater scene in Korea.
A scene from last year’s produciton of “10 Reasons not to go Home,” at the RUF Project in Itaewon. The play will be performed this weekend at the White Box Theater. (Probationary Theatre)
“Although there are a lot of theaters in Seoul’s Hyehwa district, they are very difficult to hire out for short runs. Most places will only take productions running from six months to a year.
“That meant we were performing in bars, which really limits the kind of shows you can do. You can’t do anything serious or quiet because you are always competing with the sound of the coffee machine and people ordering at the bar.
“Everyone was saying that it should be done and in the end I decided to put my money where my mouth is and rent a space.”
The Australian, who works here as a children’s swimming tutor, finally found the perfect venue near Hyochang Park subway station, a short drive from Itaewon.
She specially chose a basement space for the 80-seat White Box Theatre ― so-named because of its white rather than traditional black interior ― to allow the staging of atmospheric performances even during the day.
She and her drama-teacher husband Liam Mitchison staged the venue’s first show in April with a “Play in a Day” project, where actors spend 12 straight hours devising a play before performing it that same night.
And the theater already has a packed program for the coming months.
From May 20-22, Munro’s Probationary Theatre company will stage “10 Good Reasons not to Go Home” ― a comical look at the excesses of western culture which enjoyed a sell-out run at Seoul’s RUF Project last year.
The same company has already auditioned for a July production of American comedy “Some Girls” by Neil LaBute, and is also planning “Cosi” by Louis Nowra for spring.
A shorts show of brand new works-in-progress, another play-in-a-day event and improv workshops during the Seoul Improv Festival are just some of the other projects soon to take advantage of the new White Box Theatre.
Munro, who has been in Korea for three years and plans to stay another five, also hopes to find skilled translators to provide Korean subtitles to open up English-language productions to a wider audience.
In future, she wants to make the most of the talent available in Seoul’s expat theater scene.
She added: “The expat theater community is very transient here, so one month you might find you have three people with theater majors from America, then next time you might have a different cast entirely.
“I want to work with the talents that are available. I’m not going to attempt a play that requires an all-Irish cast unless the actors are there. My goal is to produce really good, successful and entertaining shows, if I was in it for the money I don’t think I’d be doing this!”
For more information about upcoming White Box Theatre productions, or to hire the space, go to: www.probationarytheatre.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kirsty Taylor (email@example.com