Perhaps the biggest surprise of South Korea is that I have somehow become an actress, if a scene from Titus Andronicus and a twisted Brothers Grimm retelling constitute a resume. It’s been a blast and I hope this is just the beginning. Here’s to more acting opportunities back in the United States!
One autumn day, we decided to do a play. We decided, moreover, to hold auditions for the play. Our pool of potential actors is so small we usually just divide up the loot, but this time we were going to be civilized about it. Make it all official. Come audition with a monologue and a scene from the play, they said. Come expend energy on a weekend, they said.
I had never auditioned for anything in my life and was quite stricken at the thought of preparing something. I almost gave up then. But I used the one hour bus ride to the audition to memorize my handwritten copy of a monologue I found on the Internet while eavesdropping on the Filipino ladies next to me. I settled on a quiet, sleek, far-too-satisfied-with-herself-cat of a character but I was so nervous I was probably bright red with embarrassment the entire time. I told myself it was more realistic that way.
Then they handed me the Cinderella scene and I went to town. She was an over dramatic mess and I crawled all over the floor to prove it. This is fun, I thought. I forgot this was supposed to be fun.
I was gifted three characters: the spoiled teenager Rapunzel, the soft, empty-headed (Frog) Princess and the child thug Little Red. We started Sunday afternoon rehearsals in earnest. We did a cast reading, did run throughs with our scripts in our arms– all of it. I had to get over my block on learning my lines and just do it.
(Rapunzel selfies in her tower. Photo credit: Stallone)
I had the weakest grasp on Rapunzel’s character. She also had the most lines.
Then there was the monstrosity of her hair. We were worried about what to do until the director scraped something together from some stuff he saw at Homeplus. It was very heavy to throw, but even a tiny thing like me could do it if it was coiled well. Thankfully, it didn’t break in half when it counted, only in rehearsals.
I played the soft, airy (Frog) Princess with my soft, airy head voice. She spends most of her time with her eyes as wide open as possible, trying not to go crazy from talking animals.
The entire Frog Prince story in the play is pretty gross: the frog chases her around to get a kiss, never taking no as a no. Her dad (the king) talks her into kissing the frog for all the boy losers out there who never got kissed by their princesses. Poor girl.
Lastly, I loved Little Red’s attitude and excellent hoodie. It turns out that “Little Red Cap” was raised in the Hood, hence the other name, the gun, and the swearing. I had to bleep myself out which was pretty tough.
Obviously, the best part of doing the play was getting to work with such a crew of hilarious people. Everybody brought such crazy quirks to their characters– people who watched our play didn’t really get the Crab People but they put us in stitches every single time in rehearsals. People’s vacations forced the play to start a week earlier than our original plan but people rallied. We worked on our lines all the way up to the last show.
The day of the play, I woke up with a sore throat and a bit of a cough. But I got myself on the bus to arrive at the theater at 9:30 in the morning. We got through our first full run through of the play, then went straight into our 2:00 performance.
I was feeling a bit nervous so I sang bits of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” (to shake the nerves off!) while waiting and drove the other actors crazy. Nevertheless, our 2:00 performance was a success. We had about 50 people come see us, including kids, and they were very easy to please, laughing at everything one hopes for. At some point, the Wolf was stalking me as Red and one child shouted, “The Wolf is behind you!” It was delightful to have such energetic audience reaction.
We had another performance at 7:00 and after the exhilarating ride of our first show, I was worried I would run out of steam. But our second performance was sharper and everyone nailed more of their lines and cues. The audience was pretty tough though, a bit more subdued than the 2:00 group, but we just used it to go bigger and bolder with our acting. Talking to people after, it seemed like they enjoyed it all the same.
After completing our two shows, the crew decamped to Seongnamdong for the after party. I ate a blue cheese burger at the restaurant Toolbox. Then we went to JJ’s Bar to drink beer and sing songs– including “Shake It Off.”
It was a pleasure to work with Ulsan’s Industrial Theatre Troupe: they were up for anything and they took on everything with aplomb and great humor. I am so sad I was only able to do 2 projects with them! I wish them the best in their future endeavors.
[This post was originally published on January 31, 2015. It has been backdated for the sake of tidier chronological organization.]