Park realized her 20-year old dream by making her first musical intended for export.
The musical depicts maternal love, shamanism, and folk religions.
“Producing a film or a musical is parallel to raising a child. I am very grateful that I love what I do for a living, while many people do not. It is my passion and love toward my work that motivates me.”
A 50-year old actress Park Haemi sees herself mesmerized by the joy of creation, no matter how hard it may be. Early this April, she unveiled ‘Shaman Child (Nanjang Musical)’ in which she is the producer, art director, and the leading actress. She said she recently had only three hours of sleep, juggling between her jobs as a broadcaster and the producer, art director, and the leading actress of the musical. Nevertheless, she was energetic and alive when she began talking about the musical and her enthusiasm for creative work. The Women’s News met with Park before a premiere performance scheduled for April 4.
Though it portrays shamanism and folk religions of Korea, Shaman Child is expected to move audiences abroad with mother’s love which is the main theme of the musical. She achieved her 20-year old dream by creating her first musical intended for export.
“In 1995, all the staff, actors, and actresses of ‘Dreams of General Jang Bogo’ made international trips to 24 different countries. Now that I think about it, the performance was sloppy. But I still remember that foreign audiences loved it when we performed Bara Dance, a ritual dance in Buddhism. That is exactly when I decided to create a musical which features Korean traditional elements. Here I am with Shaman Child.”
Shaman Child portrays mother’s love, a precious, common value. Seongjae, the main character, goes to a cemetery and searches for his mom, the only family he has. He meets goblins, gets into fights with them, and ultimately understands how much his mom has loved him.
It was two years ago when Park wrote the scenario and began planning to turn her ideas into an actual performance. “In 2012, Lee Hwaseon, an actress and a car racer, and I went on a road trip as part of a TV travel show. We almost died when our SUV was very close to falling from a cliff. Fortunately, though, a puddle nearby prevented us from dying. While we were taking a break after we got out of the car, we saw a butterfly which temporarily landed on the mustache of my husband who accompanied me and quickly flew off to Hwaseon’s hand and stayed there for half an hour. Right before we began shooting, it struck me that it could have been Hwaseon’s dad who reincarnated as the butterfly to save us. That is when I picked up some ideas for Shaman Child. Building on from those ideas, I wrote a scenario centered on mother’s love which, I believe, is a topic that everyone can associate to.”
Shaman Child features various Korean traditional elements including goblin, characters which remind one of a Korean folk tale ‘Heunbgu and Nolbu,’ and Taekwondo. Rhythms and melodies found in Korean folk songs such as Arirang, Cheonan Samgeori, Ongheya, and Kuejina ChingChing Nane were mixed with Western music to create a new style of Korean music.
“I am quite satisfied with the music we wrote. We now have a broader base of audiences, ranging from those in their 20s and 30s to 40s through 60s.”
She lamented that many of musicals originally created in Korea were short of true ‘Korean-ness,’ though they may have received a vast amount of investment.
“I noted that many of musicals performed in theaters today barely have any Korean traditional music. They are not genuine ‘Korean’ musicals because they exclude the traditional rhythms and melodies. We are still in the middle of a transitional period.”
She has a firm belief that the traditional culture has a huge potential and that we should reach out to global audiences with the cultural content.
She said “In the 21st century, pop art should be something that everyone can enjoy. I want to create musicals that embrace the Korean culture such as Taekwondo, Bibimbap, and Hangul or the Korean alphabet and help global citizens have a better understanding of Korea.”
Having majored in western music, it was only natural for her to develop a profound interest in the traditional culture. In 1985 when she was in her third year at the Department of Vocal Music, Ewha Womans University, she wrote music to poet Park Mokwal’s ‘Dalmuri’ and participated in the national Student Music Festival. The late songwriter Choi Youngsup who was a juror back then complimented that Park was a highly-gifted songwriter. She received a bronze award because she was not a good singer, though an excellent songwriter.
“I took my friends to the rehearsal who majored in Gukak, the Korean classical music. They were interested in the piece I wrote because it was a whole new type of folk music. No one in my family majored in Gukak. I guess I had a feel for it thanks to my childhood years when I spent a lot of time listening to Gukak with my grandmother. (laughter)”
She pointed out that creating something out of nothing is like taking narcotics. She thinks she is destined to produce a musical.
“Ever since my childhood, I loved creating things. I fully tapped into all the talents I have to produce Shaman Child. Before I grow too old to do anything, I want to have born fruit including paving the way for future artists.”
Park’s confidence may have propelled her to come all the way. She knows no fear. She is busy day and night. Nevertheless, she remains energetic because she loves what she is doing and continues to realize her dreams.
“Producing a musical resembles a fierce battle. But it is part of who I am today. I will keep striking a balance between my role as a broadcaster, a musical actress, and a producer.”
Expectations are high for Park who has an inherent love for performing on the stage and a craving for creating a new work.
For the first time in the history of musical in Korea, overseas buyers have been invited for Shaman Child’s open tryout, a performance of a play prior to its official opening to discover weaknesses and determine response. The experimental performance which was held from April 4-6 at Guri Art Hall featured Park Haemi, Lee Youngha, Lee Jaeeun, Choi Guk, Taekwondo Girl Taemi, and Kim Jiyong.
Park Haemi is diversely-talented. She has been well-received by audiences for her eye-opening performance at musicals such as ‘42nd Street on Broadway,’ ‘Mamma Mia,’ ‘Memories,’ ‘Cats,’ and ‘Don Quixote,’ and various soap operas such as ‘Love in Heaven’ and ‘Smile Donghae.’ In 1996, she set up Haemi Company which was named after her own name. Since then, she has devoted herself to the production of creative work including ‘Kiss and Make up’ released in 2010, ‘Memories,’ and ‘High-five.’ Currently, she is an associate professor of the Department of Musical at Dong-ah Institute of Media and Arts.