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Industrial Theatre Troupe Brings Original Plays to Ulsan Stage

One of the things that makes Ulsan a great place for foreigners to live is, ironically, that there’s not much going on in the city for foreigners. This means we have to get out there and make things happen for ourselves. And it’s this proactive approach, this willingness to create our own opportunities to do stuff that not only enhances our personal lives, but the community as a whole.

The Industrial Theatre Troupe is a great example of this. In March 2012, Danielle Malson, Pete Musto and the manager of the Dongrami Theatre, Yoojung Im, sat down with Kerry Maher (who directed this year’s Christmas Carol) to discuss the idea of a new theatre group. Dongrami, for those unfamiliar, is a theatre near Gonguptap Rotary that does a number of Children’s Theatre plays, in English, throughout the year. This meeting was to discuss the opportunities for plays for adult audiences. “We discussed ideas for a ‘new, vibrant, type of show’. We wanted something that involved the audience and was something that would keep people entertained for a short amount of time,” says Danielle.

Yoojung, Keyonne, Pete, Patrick, TML

Danielle has a background in theatre. She began studying at age 12, and is a qualified Drama Teacher. She has acted in and written plays, done improvisation work, and also directed a full school production. Yoojung is the manager at Dongrami Theatre and has had experience acting in English children plays, which she also directs. Pete hasn’t had as much acting experience as writing. “I wrote my first play at the age of 11 for a summer theater camp. It had wizards and shape-changing dragons in it and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written,” he says.

We chose ’30 plays in 60 minutes’ after our 3rd meeting. This idea was from a play Kerry had seen in Chicago called ‘Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind – 30 plays in 60 minutes. We all really liked and agreed on the concept, but we also wanted to make a production that was personal to not just us as actors, but the audience and their personal experiences,” Danielle continues.

Nathan, Iryna, FTB

They decided to write some of their own material, and found that some of the cast members, particularly Pete Musto and Patrick Kinsella, had a true talent for writing. Danielle says, “Pete’s talents truly shine through his witty, intelligent writing.” Each actor had a solo performance, and one play involved every actor in the troupe. In the end, they developed their own show, with a blend of original material and pieces from the Chicago play, titled To Much Light – 30 plays in 60 Minutes. 

From the outset, we wanted a range of plays that would bring a wide sense of emotions to the performance. We worked through a lot of genres but found that genre was not necessarily important but the message that we wanted to deliver with each play. Some plays were absurd, others would convey those awkward moments we feel way too often in life. Many times we played with the topics which we chose, as our intention is never to offend our audience. However, sometimes stepping on those boundaries is a gift in which theatre lies. We want people to be aware, not to think that theatre is just about laughing or singing along, but a way in which we can educate and involve people by giving them things to think about! We decided early on that every actor was to have a solo, written usually by themselves but those who didn’t want to write plays, had solos written especially for them. We also wanted one play which would have all actors in. The beauty of 30 plays in 60 minutes is the lack of knowing which play will come next. This is why having so many different genres of plays covering different personal and well known issues really work well.”

Dani, Jisu, Philip, Yoojung, Patrick, Ben, TML

Of course, working in theatre always presents challenges. Tight rehearsal-to-performance schedules, small budgets and conflicting artist’s egos are issues often faced by troupes at home, but performing in an international community presents its own problems. Danielle says, “A huge challenge about performing here, is that we are all from different parts of the World and that can make for some very conflicting ideas about what is or isn’t appropriate or even offensive. Also, bad language was a common occurrence in some plays which made the Korean actors very uncomfortable. It was also very difficult to try to explain the humour of our plays to them.”

“It’s also a bit of a challenge to try and make the plays appealing to Koreans as well despite being entirely in English, considering we don’t want to make this seem like a foreigners only event,” adds Pete.

Pete & audience member, FTB

Dealing with these challenges is often the director’s job. “It was difficult at first but we just had to be very honest with one another about how we felt. This caused some conflict and tension but as I was the director of each performance, I was sometimes unfortunately the one who had the final say. It isn’t about pleasing everybody in theatre, but yet trying your damnedest to,” Danielle explains. “Although it looks like a lot of fun, we take the performances seriously,  because a huge amount of time and effort has been put in pre-performance. We have a strict rehearsal schedule and we expect that to be kept. We are all good friends and sometimes, if someone does turn up late or not at all, it is difficult to act like a director rather than a friend who isn’t concerned.”

Industrial Theatre has put on two of these performances to date. The first show, Too Much Light, and a second, similarly themed multi-play show, Fade to Black.

Too Much Light – Danielle Malson, Pete Musto, Yoojung Im, Jisu Im, Patrick Kinsella, Philip Brett, Benjamin Slater and Keyonne Brown. Lights & Sound: Mysti Martin. Photos: Mr Kim of Dongrami Theatre

Fade To Black – Danielle Malson, Pete Musto, Keyonne Brown, Brian Kelly, Nathan Garrett, Tronell Lessing, Iryna Osipova. Lights & Sound: Philip Brett. Photos: John Acosta

In the end, the hard work and perseverance paid off. “The moment we finished our 3rd performance of TML a lady and her husband pulled me aside and asked about where the concept of 30 plays in 60 minutes came from. I told her about Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. They went on to tell me that they seen the original troupe perform in New York and said that our play ‘was just as good and professional as the one we saw in New York, congratulations.’ For a small city troupe to receive such a huge compliment really was the proudest moment, for all of us yet. However, that such comment made the pressure a lot higher for our second performance.”

This spring, Industrial Theatre is preparing for a third show, another set of 30 plays in 60 minutes. Thursday April 11th, they’re holding an open casting call at the Dongrami Theatre ( located on the 2nd Floor of the Dowon Building on the Gonguptap Rotary, next door to the Ulsan Hotel. The address is 1101-10 Sinjeong 2-dong, Nam-gu.)

Dani & Philip TML

Danielle encourages everyone to come out, but stresses that you must take the group seriously. “For our new performance (name to be confirmed) we are looking for actors who have had experience on stage. The reason being is that this is a very stressful and intense experience which takes a lot of time, commitment, and effort. We fear that if somebody joins, with lack of knowledge of how a production is run, they may quit. We want people who have experience, are enthusiastic, confident to try and experiment with different kinds of theatre, and are open to ideas and suggestions. As I am the director of 30 plays in 60 minutes, sometimes people need to hear some things they may not agree with, but it’s just constructive criticism, not a personal attack.”

A few things have changed from the original performances. Danielle and Pete, as the only remaining original troupe members, have taken on the roles of Director and Producer. “Pete and I have set rules for this performance, for the first time since the ITT started. Writers are only allowed a maximum of 7 of their plays in the production. These final plays shall be decided by Pete. Actors can only be in 15 of the 30 plays and the casting shall be decided by me. A writer will collaborate with the director to direct their plays; final decisions will be made by me. Our plan is to have the tightest play we have done yet and to finally reach the 60 minute goal. The closest we have been is 69 minutes.”

Tronell, Iryna & Pete, FTB

Pete and I would like to thank UlsanOnline and the people of Ulsan for their continued supports of theatre. It is a huge passion of both of ours and our fellow troupers. We have taken a lot of our time and effort to create something that we want the people of Ulsan to see and be apart of, even if it is just for one play for one of the performances. We appreciate the willingness of the audience members and their honest feedback.”

Ulsan is lucky to have passionate, creative people who are willing to put so much effort into these productions. It takes talent, energy and drive to put together a theatre performance. Support their initiative, and join the Industrial Theatre Troupe, either by helping create their next work of art, or by showing up to view it.

For more information on the casting call (tonight!) check their Facebook group, and watch UlsanOnline for their upcoming performance dates!