21 August 2009

The more things change...

When my family first moved to the U.S. from Canada, we ended up living across the street from the Canadian consul general's house, and it took us a good month to realize that their was something weird about somebody flying the Canadian flag in Detroit: you get so used to whatever you've been surrounded by that you forget you're not there anymore. Such was the case this morning, when Justin and I boarded the bus and realized about two blocks in that the women next to us were speaking Korean.

Turns out they're here with the two Korean shows at the Fringe. The first is a children's story called, in English, "The Dandelion's Story," which is perhaps a more aethetic title than the original Korean, "Kangaji ddong," or "Dog poop." Yes, this is the story of an intrepid piece of dog poo, and I would love to be there when the theatre producer reads your resume and finds, under "Acting Experience," the words "Doggy Poo."

According to the brochure the women gave us, Doggy Poo suffers greatly:

[A] tree sparrow, a clod of earth, a hen, and everyone else said "You are
disgusting! dirty! useless! and didn't love the doggy poo. The doggy poo grieves
and asks, 'I am a dirty poo, can I ever be useful to anyone?'

But lo, there is hope! A dandelion comes to town, and we learn that the fertilizing powers of Doggy Poo will enable the dandelion to blossom! Talk about your feel-good stories!

Like all things Korean, of course, nothing is as meets the eye. First of all, a dandelion, in Korea, is thought to be lucky, not a weed - think four-leaf clover, not crabgrass. And "dog poo," or, more accurately, "dog sh*t," was an insulting slang term for the Korean low social classes, used to suggest that they were (again, according to the brochure), "both common and useless." So The Dandelion's Story is actually meant as a hopeful allegory, a story showing value and dignity in common things. The play's tagline is "Nothing God made is useless."

The other Korean play is an adult drama based on a letter from a widow to her dead husband excavated in a Korean construction project in Andong. Both this play, "A Love in Dream," and "The Dandelion's Story" are getting rave reviews across the Fringe. Korea has a strong history at the Fringe. The play "Jump!", at which we discovered that Justin was a martial arts master, came from the Fringe a few years back.

So once again we learn the same lesson we've seen over and over, which is that it really is a small world after all.

PS. We also learned that the Koren company, Modl Theatre, made sure to travel with enough Korean food to survive their run here - just like Justin's students, who took ramen and Spam to Shanghai. Koreans are absolutely famous for wanting Korean food when abroad. We tipped them off on the Asian grocery, which has both Korean ramen and soju, thereby doing our part for the arts abroad.

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