The Korea Herald


‘Wonderland’ stage show reveals slice of life in Korea

By Korea Herald

Published : June 8, 2016 - 19:01

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Life soon after arriving in Korea can seem like a bemusing blur of episodes, and the Changwon Community Theater has tried to re-create just that in a self-penned show.

The group’s next production “Waygook-in Wonderland” runs this weekend, giving a view of life in Korea in some 45 short segments.

The play was a collaborative project devised by the cast, led by director Cinthia Palmer, who describes the show as a smorgasbord of short sketches, song and dance turned into one long music video.

“This is definitely not a traditional show in that we started with our own stories and no script,” said Palmer. “It’s both challenging and more freeing in that it’s personal to the community.”

Palmer said she started the show with the common experience of arriving at the airport and being whisked off on a bus without really knowing where you are heading, and using that and similar motifs to create a kind of dramatic collage.

“We see some characters with stories and resolutions, but most are without, so it’s more like a slice-of-life styled cabaret. If there’s any overarching message, it’s that humor and open discussion can help us accept cultural differences and learn to live in harmony.”

Sunil Mahtani, who is producing and acting in the play, says the team tried to fit as many different experiences in as possible.

“It’s a two-hour show but it’s very fast paced with lots of laughs and one-liners ... basically we have distilled every single foreign experience that somebody can have in South Korea,” he said.

“It was quite fun because with 20 people in the cast and a few helping out with the writing of it and everything ... it really does feel like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ show because it’s not one voice, it’s all of our voices.”

Nate Newel rehearses an airport scene from “Waygook-in Wonderland.” (Sunil Mahtani) Nate Newel rehearses an airport scene from “Waygook-in Wonderland.” (Sunil Mahtani)

The cast is a mix of Korean and expat performers, and includes a few teaching-themed scenes, including Koreans teaching expats their language and vice-versa -- with Mahtani singing a song about not being afraid to make language errors in one. He says the play, while recommended for over-12s, uses more lighthearted humor than pointed criticism.

And for Palmer, the key strength is the mix of people involved in the show.

“For me, the most exciting thing about this show is that our cast is so diverse in age, culture, nationality and background. Thus, the sketches and characters themselves are also diverse. There’s something for everyone.”

The play will double as a fund-raiser for the Gyeongnam Multicultural Family Support Center, an organization that the troupe has helped in the past. This time, Mahtani hopes the group will be able to make a bigger donation, as the play has no royalty fees attached and the venue has been arranged for free through the center.

“It’s a good organization and because they loved what we did with ‘Maggie’s Getting Married,’ they are helping us sell tickets quite a bit,” he said. “It‘s almost like they have become our partner to help us sell tickets and promote what we do and in exchange we help them out as well with their good work.”

It’s also more than twice the size of the group’s usual venue, with 200 seats, but Mahtani says that ticket sales are on track to sell out.

The shows take place Saturday at the Bongrim Theater of Changwon University at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets cost 10,000 won ($8.60), or 5,000 won with student ID, available from O’Briens Irish Pub in Changwon or by bank transfer, with details available on the event’s Facebook page.

By Paul Kerry (