The Korea Herald


Author Cheon Seon-ran explains her preference for stage adaptations of 'A Thousand Blues'

By Park Ga-young

Published : April 21, 2024 - 08:02

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Cheon Seon-ran (middle), the author of novel “A Thousand Blues, Cheon Seon-ran (middle), the author of novel “A Thousand Blues," composer Park Chun-hwee (left) and Lee Yoo-ri, artistic director of Seoul Performing Arts Company, participate in a press conference held at Seoul Arts Center on Thursday. (Seoul Performing Arts Company)

“A Thousand Blues,” a science fiction novel by young writer Cheon Seon-ran, has been reborn as not one but two different stage performances just less than one month apart.

Cheon, 31, had received offers for the adaptation of her award-winning novel, but she had rejected turning it into a movie or drama for a reason.

“The aspect that I was most worried about, if ‘A Thousand Blues’ were adapted into a drama or movie, was the use of animals. For a movie or drama, it seemed impossible to portray the main character, a horse, without its physical presence. Moreover, if the attention were to be diverted, there could be a significant reduction in the themes inherent in the book,” Cheon told reporters during a press conference on April 18 at Seoul Arts Center.

“Even without a physical form, there are still thrills and excitement to be felt in that space. Since I also love musicals very much, I'm eagerly anticipating and waiting with excitement to hear Collie’s words in song, and all that comes with it,” Cheon added.

Set in 2035, "A Thousand Blues" revolves around a humanoid named Collie, created as a jockey, and the racehorse Today, as well as two sisters, their mother and their journey of recovery from devastating situations, while exploring their connections.

In 2019 Cheon won the Grand Prize in the fourth Korea Science Fiction Award with the novel. She signed a deal with Penguin Random House and the English version of "A Thousand Blues" is set to be published next year.

Cheon said she doesn’t see many different musicals but that she would watch her favorite musicals multiple times.

“I have vivid memories of seeing ‘The Lion King’ while traveling alone, and the strong impression it left on me. After that, I also saw ‘Les Miserables,’ and when I returned to Korea, I watched ‘Along with the Gods,’ during which I cried throughout the entire performance. Unlike ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Along with the Gods’ was a theatrical production that utilized stage visuals in a highly innovative way. This aspect was quite striking to me, and it gave me a new perspective on the future direction of musicals,” Cheon said.

For the Seoul Performing Arts Company, known for its experimental and innovative approach to performing arts, bringing Cheon’s sci-fi novel onto the stage, or even the idea of it, was not easy, said Lee Yoo-ri, the artistic director of the company.

“When director Kim Tae-hyung offered the idea of using a puppet to portray the humanoid robot, thinking in reverse, I thought a stage adaptation would be possible,” Lee said, adding, “Because the message of Cheon’s novel is a story of solidarity regardless of whether it's a human or machine or animal that emotionally moves individuals, providing mutual comfort and instilling hope."

The musical adaptation by Seoul Performing Arts Company is set to run from May 12 to May 26 at SAC.

For the musical stage production, composer Park Chun-hwee joined forces with playwright and lyricist Kim Han-sol.

Currently, a play version of the novel by the National Theater Company of Korea, is running at Hongik Daehangno Art Center, featuring an actual robot as Collie.

"A Thousand Blues," a play adaptation by the National Theater Company of Korea (National Theater Company of Korea)