“STANDBY: LIGHTS, sound, action!” As the curtain draws, a new world comes alive on stage. This is drama. In ancient history, drama had been the ultimate source for entertainment. Yet drama stepped down from its first place, due to technology that is becoming more advanced day by day. There are fewer people who actually visit theaters, not movie theaters, to watch real life people put on a drama; drama has become quite unfamiliar to most people. Luckily, however, Yonsei University has offered three chances to become friends with drama. Take the advantage of the last spring month May, and find out the fortes of drama!
Drama Societies and Clubs
Many people say drama reflects the life of human beings. What is also said is that people develop themselves during their life in college. Can these two concepts converge? The answer is yes, through the drama clubs and societies. At Yonsei University, the most famous central drama club is Yonsei Theater Art Research Club. The Yonsei Theater Art Research Club represents a long and proud history that dates all the way back to the 1920s. With such a long history, this club has produced numerous sun-baes, or predecessors, who are contributing greatly to the cultural and arts division of South Korea. The chairman of the board at the Korean Arts Management Services, Pyo Jae-sun, screenwriter Jung Ha-yeon and many more sun-baes are proud to have been nurtured at this extremely artistically rich club. These former members have constantly kept in touch and supported the club. Lee Ji-soo (President, Yonsei Theatre Art Research Club & Jr., Dept. of Applied Statistics) also added that the Yonsei Theater Art Research Club’s biggest pride and asset would be having the longest drama history of Yonsei and the connections of former sun-baes and the new members. The collaboration performance is planned for 2015, with actors who were admitted to Yonsei in the 70s and 80s and the new members.
In addition to the collaboration performance, the members perform at the Muak Theater, which is located on the fourth floor of the Student Union building. Approximately 20 members who have practiced for ten weeks hold performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the first week of each term. However, according to Lee, members of this club are gathered not only because they are all greatly skilled at acting, but also have the passion and will to act. Genres for performances are not limited; yet rather than simple laughter, they make sure there are traces of effort and deep thoughts as college students.
The lights at the Muak Theater are not only turned on by the Yonsei Theater Art Research Club, but also by the numerous drama clubs of every college in Yonsei. A few examples may be the Medical School’s “Seran Theater”, College of Social Science’s “Underground Tunnel”, College of Liberal Art’s drama society “Wings”, College of Business and Economic’s “Drama Association” and College of Engineering’s “College of Engineering Drama Society.” There are numerous other drama societies that exists in Yonsei University but these are a couple that are representative.
In terms of history, the Seran Theater also represents a proud and rich one, having been established in 1928, based on D.B. Avison’s suggestion. It started out as a ‘stunt night,’ where each grade would prepare a skit about human beings, family and the society for a better and concrete understanding on humanity. This was the motivation that led to the establishment of Seran Theater. What the members of the Seran Theater seek is not just the drama itself, but to become a ‘good doctor’ through the understanding of people from drama. According to Yoon Han-gyul, (Former director, Seran Theater & Sr., Dept. of Medicine) it is true that they have mostly presented drama that is based on realism, but recently they have been experimenting with new genres. Yoon also added that the Seran Theater presents a drama every break, and the coming performance this August would be their 44th. In any case, the Seran Theater claims strongly that they will become the guide to becoming a mature human being.
The Drama Society of the College of Engineering is also the oldest club among all of those in the College of Engineering. Established in 1971, it has been presenting more than two performances every year. Many think that this club is dull and boring like the image of ‘engineering’ itself, but this is a misunderstanding. Like most clubs, this club is supported by former members and has skilled actors that perform with no limits in the genres they perform. However, the best characteristic they own, according to Kim Dong-jin (President, Drama Society of the College of Engineering & Soph., Dept. of Electrical & Electronic Engin.), is that as students of the College of Engineering, they build their sets in a way others cannot follow, because it is based on engineering methods.
Box 1. Drama and…Solution?
Apart from the clubs, another way to become friendlier with drama is through the discount benefits offered by the 51st Students’ Union, Solution. The Students’ Union has provided the students discounted prices to visit theaters and enjoy a performance especially around the Dae hak-ro. Members of Solution hold a brief meeting over the performances that are brought in to them for advertisement, then announce those that are selected. The performances are chosen without any restrictions in genre, there is no fixed schedule on when these benefits for certain performances are given. This benefit, provided to enhance the welfare of the students, is offered for Yonseians every time the offer comes in. As soon as the Students’ Union receives information about the performances and discounts, they try to announce the benefits as soon as possible.
Drama in Classes
Drama can be approached through classes, with the guidance of professors. At Yonsei University, according to the manual of classes in the year of 2014, there were three classes open for anybody who wanted to befriend drama. The Department of English Language and Literature offers the class “Poetry, Drama and Performance”, the Department of Russian Language and Literature offers “Russian Performance Arts” and there is a choice elective of “Performance Arts Criticism”. All of these classes do not require any prerequisites and are open for students in all majors, in fact containing numerous students all from different majors. According to the syllabi, both classes mostly consist of verbal practices for future possible performances.
In the class “Poetry, Drama and Performance,” the syllabus quotes that it will pay “special attention to the sounds of the English language” and that “extensive analyses of the meaning of the texts in relation to their sound qualities” will be done. Because this class is one in the major courses of Department of English, it focuses mainly on the features of the English language– to have a deeper understanding of the English language and practice, through performance. The class “The Art of Russian Performance” on the other hand, focuses more strongly on the performance of drama itself, due to its purpose of the cultivation of Russian culture and arts through experience and practice. This class is known for its high requirements among the Russian Language and Literature majors. That is how much passion, effort and time the professor requires of each student. The class is entirely preparation for the final performance around the first week of June. If performing still requires too much courage, there is a class where you can critique drama: “Performance Arts Criticism.” The purpose of this class is to raise the comprehension of contemporary drama and how to watch it, in order to be able to criticize it.
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Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” summarizes the life stories of all of us. Perhaps it also shows the important correlation between drama and life. It is quite unfortunate that the footsteps of the people to drama theaters have become a decrescendo. Maybe thanks to the chance of befriending drama, through drama clubs, benefits from Solution and classes, Yonseians may be given a chance for a better understanding of people; and most importantly, ourselves. On this last month of spring, May, take the opportunity to learn more about drama and more about yourselves.