Moving at the Speed of Seoul

Korea was quite an experience.  We walked away from the festival with three new contracts until 2009 and I have been incredibly busy ever since.  Unfortunately for me, Korea ended up being all business and very little sightseeing, but it looks like I will be spending quite a bit more time there in the future, I look at it as a good investment.  The bad news that the 2006 edition of one of those projects in Suwan will not go forward due to lack of time.  Nonetheless, they still seem truly interested and suggest that we focus on developing something for next year’s festival.  Furthermore, we are confirmed to return to the Korean festival next year.  Shit, people work fast there.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b8/Cheongnyangni_Station.jpg/600px-Cheongnyangni_Station.jpg

From an Internet Terminal (50 cents for 15 minutes) in Cheongnyangni Station in Seoul

I have been as busy and sick as a dog the last three days in preparation for the festival in Korea.  I finally finished cutting the trailer video for the project in Taiwan this fall after about 100 hours of work in the cutting room (See?  I can never be specific.  Just this last week as The Rocker and I were jetting around Japan on a quick promotional tour, we found out that there has been a major change in plans.  It is not a problem, but it has changed the concept of the show 180 degrees.  This is why I talk about projects as little as possible until opening day.  Special thanks to my good friend, The Clown, who instilled this idea in me early in my career.  Even the video concept changed at the last minute, but sometimes such destabilization can play to your advantage.).

To tell the truth, I am very happy with this video; I tried some new techniques, and it is about two times longer than the previous longest video I have ever cut.  The eclectic music presented special problems, but I think I was able to work around them all (Imagine trying to find a way to make Marilyn Manson, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, traditional Chinese drumming, an avant garde percussionist, Mongolian Buddhist chanting and Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ in a way that will make sense!  I hope to post some links soon.

For this trip, I have been writing old school style in my notebook every chance I get.  I met up with the daughter of my former German teacher and her friends in downtown Seoul and had drinks early into the morning.  I will transcribe some thoughts as time allows.

Travelling like this is really the best part of my life right now.  Tonight, The Political Scientist will be arriving as well; the special Lithuanian envoy to the Korean arts scene.

Off to Chuncheon!

Reconnections

Turns out that the daughter of my German teacher (who I always has a little crush on back when I was in high school) will be in Korea visiting friends at the same time as me.  Her mother told her I visited in Minnesota and she’s interested in finding out more about what I’m up to.  Evidently, she’s interested in seeing some breakdancing in Korea.

It’s been almost 12 years so I’m not sure I’ll even recognize her.

I’ll be arriving late, so if I can just find a place to leave my bag and a place to sleep on the 30th we’ll have one night to hang out, drink, and then I’ll head to the festival after.

Hangul In Just Twenty Minutes a D… Well, in just twenty minutes, actually.

Different languages have different personalities as you learn them: Japanese is a frustrating enigma, French is an redundant, ornate, beauty, German is ditactic and practical, and I am finding that Korean is one of the warmest and friendliest languages I have ever learned.  Korean invites you in and makes you a cup of tea.

I went from illiteracy to proficiency in hangul, the Korean alphabet, in the twenty-minute train-ride home from the gym.  I wish that this had something to do with an innate linguistic ability on my part, but the fact is that it is simply the most user-friendly and intuitive alphabet system I have ever encountered.  I memorized 17 basic forms and a few rules, and I am now able to figure out all 24 letters and the multitudes of syllables that one can form from them with ease.  This page was amazingly helpful.

I have heard that Korean grammar is similar to Japanese grammar, so I hope that in a few days I will learn enough sentence structure to speak broken Korean.  That will leave me about two weeks to build up vocabulary for my trip!

Inflate the Reality

So at the end of March The Rocker has included me in a pitch he made to a festival in Korea and three weeks ago I got last-minute confirmation that I would be going with him.  Like he says, forget about things and sometimes you get some nice surprises!  It will be a great networking opportunity, and also the chance to meet face-to-face to discuss a lot of the Taiwan festival details.

I’m supposed to write an article on “The Creation Process of Canadian Contemporary Circus” and to present “Three years training process in the National Circus School of Canada and how Canadian circus became a more theatrical, unique style.”  The Rocker will be presenting on “why Canadian circus and physical theatre grew to be such important and successful part of Canadian culture.” He will be introducing his past work in music fusion in China, the visual movement, and physical theatre in New Circus in Quebec using a lot of DVDs.  He says that when working in a different language with an interpreter, he prefers to let the images speak for themselves.
Following this advice, I’ll show how I developed my number, showing many versions of my number as it evolved through the school from its first version to the one we see in the DVD, why I went to circus school, and what exactly is the process of training, the new groups coming out of the school that are moving away from Cirque du Soleil style and creating a even newer form.
We’ll also talk together about how I ended up in Japan, the Rocker ended up in Taiwan, and where we are going with all this.  So far, the video I’m preparing is looking really great!

He told me that we need to present the school and Cirque du Soleil in a positive way, offering only constructive criticism as we are in no position to make enemies (he also told me remind him of what he just said, because sometimes he has a big mouth).  The Rocker quote: “Keep the lies, that’s the way we do things…not even white lies…just inflate the reality.”

Looks like it’s going to be fun! Too bad the focus has changed away from “the picking up of girls; theory and practice.”  I had already finished my first draft.

Since The Rocker is able to stop over in Japan on the way to the Korea festival I have set up a meeting with the Canadian embassy in Tokyo to formally introduce The Rocker, his work, and our plans are in Taiwan.  I will explain that I have been in contact with the National Theater of Tokyo and that they expressed interest in receiving a proposal regarding a potential residency and that we would like to have the embassy’s backing, and also to find out what resources we would have available to us as he represents a Canadian organization that is dedicated to bringing Canadian art abroad.

If everything goes well, I’ll be asking her for her support as we contact my people at the National Theater to set up a meeting for us on our free days. I’m also trying to find some local production companies to meet with but so far no luck.  He knows a small circus company that seems very sincere who are trying to set up a circus school in Tokyo and The Tokyo International Festival is also reviewing our materials to see if they can make time for us to meet with them.

He’ll be staying at a ryokan in Ikebukuro that he found online.  I just want to make sure that he knows that he’ll only have communal restrooms and a communal bath.  At least it will be a new experience (assuming they don’t have ryokans in Taiwan…  they very well might!)  Just to be safe, I’ll send him a primer on ‘ryokan etiquette’ so that he’s aware of the differences between hotels and rokans (there is no bed; the maid will come in to set up a futon during dinner time; which slippers to use where, etc.)

Oh his side, he’s been busy connecting with his contact from the Singapore Arts Festival this week and getting info on a Shanghai project run by one of his Macau friends.  Evidently some things he pulls together are very good, and some just drop out of existence.  He even met with some Japanese buyers – evidently there is a lot of support for Canadian/Japanese collaborations right now – and he’s thinking of travelling to Kyoto to meet one of them when he is in Japan later this month.  Japan is a very small country, really.  Nothing more than a half day away by train.  Kyoto is about two hours or so away by bullet train and costs about 200 dollars one way, so if the guy is interested in what we are going to be working on in Taiwan, then it would definitely be in our interests.

And on to Korea

As The Rocker says, “Apply for things and forget about them.  You’ve lost nothing if they never happen, but when something does come through, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

And so we wait for confirmation on project after project: a 1-hour made-to-order multi-media/acrobatic show at an international film festival in Taipei, various residencies in Japan, the budget for an international new circus festival in Taiwan, the possibility of performing or creating a new show in Singapore.

I also wait for responses from several proposals I have sent out on my own: residency at MIT, working with my former dance company in Boston, even applying for a Data Analysis Specialist position at Mauna Kea Observatory in the naive hopes that this life of show production and promotion might someday provide me with an easy exit ramp back to the life of a responsible, financially-secure scientist.

Last night, after returning from a limited Golden Week roadtrip with The Political Scientist and her friend, I received word that the Chuncheon International Mime Festival was indeed counting on me to present at the end of May as a graduate of the National Circus School of Canada, a former freelance performer for the Canadian circus company Cirque Theatrical at the 2005 World Expo in Nagoya, and assistant director/new project coordinator for the National Theater of Taiwan.  All this despite their notice in April that due to budgetary constraints, they would not be able to sponsor me after all.

It was a last-minute change, the kind that I have had to learn to accept in my profession.  The only way around it is to maintain flexibility in your commitments at all costs.  Luckily, on the particular week in question, I was able to reschedule all commitments except for one, so on to Seoul.

It has been a long time since I was last in South Korea.  The las time was in 1991 as an incredibly awkward 14-year old travelling with my family.  I remember nothing of the language, except for “thank you,” and nine of the numbers from one to ten (I have no idea which number I am missing).

Whenever I travel to a country, I like to learn enough of the language to order a local specialty in a bar or make a request of a DJ.  I think that if you know that much of a language, you are well on your way to fluency.

“Excuse me, a drink please.”

“……………..”

“What do you recommend?”

“……………..”

“One of those, then.”

“……………..”

“Thank You!”

or,

“Excuse me, do you have ‘Dirty Water’ by the Standells?”

“…………….(negative)”

“It’s ok.  Sorry to bother you, but do you have ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde?”

“…………….(affirmative)”

“Excellent!  Thank you!”

By living abroad in non-Anglophone countries for the last 6 years, I have learned that I had been far too anxious when it came to learning foreign languages.  It took me about one week to learn ‘bar Mandarin.’  I didn’t understand responses word-for-word, but body language clears up a lot of ambiguity.  The only problem was that I had no idea what they brought me that night and was unable to order it again.  I just asked for recommendations everywhere I went.

So for Korea, I am supposed to talk about my studies at the National Circus School, what the “theatrification of Circus” involves, and what it is that characterizes the Canadian thrust of the movement.  I have 24 hours to get my mind straight about this subject, compose an article and lecture and then send it to the festival for translation into Korean.

I will also probably have to provide a technical demonstration, though I am not really sure what that might entail, as theatrification is not a real word.