By Jung Joo-ri and Kim Young Shin
Photos = Kim Sunjoo
Seoul | March 30, 2018
“Through theater, I become Korean, from being non-Korean.”
So said Cathy Rapin, a stage director from France.
“Korea” is the key word that cannot be missed when she talks about her theatrical career. She entered the world of Korean theater in 1992 and became an amateur director, introducing Korean literary works to French readers by translating some 20 books. She became a full-time director in 2001 and founded the Theatre Francophonies with Professor Im Hye-gyong from Sookmyung Women’s University in 2009 to introduce French plays to Korean audiences.
Korea.net sat down with Cathy Rapin on March 30 to listen to her life in the theater in Korea at the Dongyang Arts Center in Seoul, where the Theatre Francophonies is celebrating its 10th anniversary by staging “Nine Little Girls” (Neuf petites filles).
– How did you come to Korea, as opposed to anywhere else?
When I was a university student in France, I had lots of Korean friends. At that time, I heard that Koreans seldom use English. That’s why I thought Koreans must be free from the influence of the Western world. I came to Korea because I wanted to adopt the unique aspects of Korean society.
– How did your theatrical career begin in Korea?
In 1992, I was lecturing at Seoul Women’s University. Some students and I made a drama club and participated in the Avignon Theater Festival. There, we staged Lee Kang-Baek’s “Homo Separatus.” After that, I wrote a thesis for a doctorate on Choi In-hun. I met many Korean theatrical actors in the process and was mesmerized by the energy they had. In 2001, I began my career as a stage director.
– What is your special interest when you work with Korean actors and actresses?
Korean actors are very dynamic and full of energy. I can see that they are full of creativity when they are reading the script. I take their individual level of energy into account to set the stage and to adjust the tone.
– What does it mean to you to be a stage director?
When giving a lecture to university students, I’m just a professor from some other country. However, when I work together with my actors and actresses to create the stage, I am no longer a non-Korean. On the stage, I am just one of “us.” Through the theater, we overcome all our differences. Through theater, we all become family.
– Have you got any words for your Korean audience?
In Korea, our works are considered “French drama.” However, they aren’t, really. They’re played by Korean actors and actresses who act based on a script translated into Korean. Also, I myself learned about theater here in Korea. Moreover, I become Korean, from being non-Korean, through the theater. That’s why I’m a stage director that creates Korean plays, not French plays.