Director who Sheds Light on the Meaning of Life
Ra Jin-hwan (Department of Japanese Language & Literature, ERICA, ‘91).
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The stage boiled with explosive energy and fervor with the dance-like movements the actors made. “In the times of despair and hopelessness, do not be engulfed in the typhoon of rage, but confront the reality that each and everyone is not your competitors, but all the same, scarred souls like yourself. You can find happiness through reconciliation and forgiveness.” Actors threw questions of God, meaning of life, and mankind.
Every moment of the seven-hour-play left the opportunity of deep contemplation as the audience slowly digested the meaningful contexts provided by the fiery speech of the actors. This philosophical world of The Karamazov Brothers on stage was weaved by the hands of a theatrical director and a professor of Sungkyul University, Ra Jin-hwan (Department of Japanese Language & Literature, ERICA, ‘91).
The seven-hour-play about the human nature
The Brothers Karamazov is a story of the conflict about hatred, love, and money between three brothers, Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha, Smerdyakov, two women named Katerina, Grushenka, and their father, Fyodor. It is Ra’s third work of the series about humanistic introspection of humans which is based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s works, such as Demons and Crime and Punishment. “Dostoyevsky is my favorite author. This is because there is no other author who achieved well-made contemplation and analysis about the inner side of human nature as much as him, and also about the relationship between man and God with such a scale,” Ra explained.
Costing three years until full completion, the play is the longest of the aforementioned three plays of Ra. He was determined to produce the play after a near death experience caused by an unfortunate medical accident. “When a human’s body is in loss of strength, one contemplates about the essence of life. I wanted to tell people about the story of life with the masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, and decided to go for it after the incident,” Ra reminisced.
Actor to theatrical director
Ra first encountered experiences with plays when he was participating as a member of a theater group during his university years. “I joined the group because I did everything from singing in a school choir to drawing in an art club, but never experienced acting before,” he said. Although acting was very enjoyable, the whole process was very overwhelming. However the thought that he could have done better lingered in his heart, and stimulated Ra to continue on his theater group activities.
“I decided to focus on studying to enter graduate school, but my friend left me a copy of The Victors by Jean-Paul Sartre on my desk. I read it and was so moved by the critical mindset about justice that I participated in acting in the play once again.” That moment was what led Ra to follow a career path of theatrical arts. He decided to do what he was most confident and interested in.
While studying abroad in Paris as an actor, Ra felt that the final decision maker of a play was the director, not the actor. “I wished to create a play that reflected my own ideals and beliefs. That is why I became a director instead of being an actor,” Ra said. Focusing his attention to performing arts and artistic movements, he devised his unique aesthetic style called theater dance. “Theater dance was the effort to harmonize image and narrative together in order to allow Korean audience to better understand new kinds of abstract plays in a more international dimension,” Ra said.
According to Ra, the essence of a play is to give resonance to the question of the nature of human. “I want to be a theatrical director who can tell the audience the answer to the question with my own aesthetical expression system,” he said. Ra is planning to create another play that is based on Dostoyevsky’s work called The Idiot. For those who are pursuing a career of acting and directing plays, Ra advised, “Sustain your interests and carry it on for a long period of time. You have to go through audition by audition, play by play. Everything is new, so think incessantly, fight, and be strong. There are no answers, and do what you want to do to be happy.”
Jang Soo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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