Life in Korea: Performing for a crowd – where, when, and how to show off your talents
Author’s note: I’m sure I’ve missed some awesome groups – apologies, as no oversights are intended. If you’re aware of an active expat-related group that has chances for people to perform, e-mail me at chrisinsouthkorea AT gmail DOT com and I’ll update this post ASAP.
On your average Thursday night, expats in Korea are doing plenty of things – getting a beer with friends, going on dates, and so on. At one bar in Itaewon, dozens of people have come to an open mic night – just one of many places to show your stuff and otherwise get away from the mono-talented mindset Korea seems to foist on foreigners. With Sarah and Albert hosting, the open mic sign-up sheet fills up quickly – with registration starting a half-hour before the mere mortals arrive, there’s more people looking to perform than there are slots. By most estimates, however, that’s OK – for a show that starts at 9pm, it’ll go for at least a couple hours before the hosts finally say ‘good night!’.
Coming to Korea means three things for most teachers: learning patience for the idiosyncrasies of Dae Han Min Guk, keeping in touch with friends and family back home while making new friends, and being seen as just a teacher by the majority of locals. Legally speaking, most teachers are on a work visa that doesn’t permit doing anything outside the scope of their contract. And yet, tens of thousands of college graduates bring their energy and passion to a country that hasn’t (yet) enabled it. The solutions are typically grass-roots, with some buy-in from local establishments.
Boy are you in luck – the expat theater scene has gone from a couple of options to the ‘more than you can share a stick at’ level. In alphabetical order:
- The Cut Glass Theatre – bringing classic texts alive in Seoul. Most recently performed: Our Country’s Good.
- The Daegu Theatre Troupe – English-language theatre in Korea’s fourth-largest city. Most recently performed: Closer.
- The Probationary Theatre – aiming to be intelligent, entertaining, and accessible. Most recently performed: Yellow Face.
- The Seoul City Improv – improvisational acting a la ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’. Most recently performed: May 19th.
- The Seoul Players – the granddaddy of Korean expat theatre. Most recently performed: The Vagina Monologues.
- The Seoul Shakespeare Company – give you one guess what sort of theater they do. Most recently performed: The Tempest.
- Shakespeare in Busan – again, a tough one to figure out. Coming up next: Much Ado About Nothing.
- At the Basement (Busan) – every Tuesday night.
- At Crossroads (Busan) – every Thursday night starting at 10pm.
- At Ol’55 (Busan) – claiming the title of Busan’s longest running open mic. Every Wednesday night starting at 9pm.
- At Tony’s in Itaewon (Seoul) – first and third Sunday starting at 8:30pm.
- Camarata Music Company – one big expat choir performing the classics, along with a musical every so often. Most recently performed: Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
- Any number of belly dancing groups have performance opportunities. This is simply one place to start looking – Google is your friend in this case.
- Swing dancing is all around Korea – while I wrote a post way back in the day, it’s probably better to check out this more frequently updated site.
- The JK pole dancing school – sorry guys, but kudos for thinking you can keep up. They offer other classes as well, if you’re game.
- The White Lies Burlesque group – guys, this one’s usually for the girls only.
- The Ha-Ha Hole (Soul Trane, Busan) – first Friday of every month. Sign up by 9:30pm, performances start at 10pm.
- Rocky Mountain Tavern (Seoul) – first Thursday of every month. It’s mentioned here for completeness, as I’ve been told you need to work up to this one.
- Tony’s in Itaewon (Seoul) – every Wednesday brings out the funnymen and women. Starts at 9pm.
- At Cafe Radio in Kyungsungdae (Busan) – third Saturday of the month, the group “Wordz Only” gets together for poetry and readings of what people have written.
- Go Getters Toastmasters Club (Busan) – meets every Tuesday night at 7:30pm.