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UT to stage English-language debut of Korean play, ‘The King and the Clown’

The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film will present “The King and the Clown” Friday through Sunday, Feb. 17-19 and Feb. 24-26.

The play, written by Taewoong Kim, is popular in its native South Korea, according to Keeyong Hong, UT theatre student and director.

UT student Michael Vanderpool rehearsed a scene in the UT production of “The King and the Clown.” He plays Gonggil, a clown.

Hong, a seasoned actor from Incheon, South Korea, is studying abroad at The University of Toledo.

Even though he has worked as an actor in his home country for more than 10 years, Hong said, “I wanted to come to the United States to study acting and directing formally.”

He learned about UT’s program when he attended a Linklater theatrical voice workshop presented by Haerry Kim. She recommended UT’s Theatre and Film Department to Hong. Kim guest directed the UT production of “The Hothouse” in 2011.

Hong was impressed with the wealth of opportunities to perform, direct and work on a production at UT, and he enrolled as a theatre major. He is excited about directing his first UT production, “The King and the Clown.”

“This play is very popular in Korea. In America, people always do plays written by Shakespeare, Chekhov and other famous writers, but you don’t often get to see a Korean play. I wanted to share the Korean culture with American audiences. This is a good play [for that] because it shows the Korean culture, but it also carries themes that people all over the world share — love, pain, sacrifice, relationships. These things are universal.”

Some of the traditional Korean cultural themes Hong said audiences can expect to see are reflected in the clothing of the characters and their habit of sitting and sleeping close to the floor, which is done because the ground is often warmer than the air.

He also said Korean people show great reverence and respect for elders and invest much authority in their leaders. “In the play, they obey the king completely. He can kill anyone without a reason,” Hong said.

The king’s authority in this cultural context is at the center of the story of “The King and the Clown.” Two clowns, Gonggil and Jaensaeng, offend the king, an act punishable by death. But the king grants them a reprieve if they can make him laugh. Fortunately, they manage to survive. Enamored by the lure of wealth and prestige, Gonggil soon becomes a favorite of the king, much to the dismay of his friend, Jaensaeng. Jaengsaeng is crushed because he believes Gonggil has sold his soul to win the king’s favor.

Because of sexual content and profanity, this play is not recommended for audience members 17 and younger.

Cast members for “The King and the Clown” are UT students Moody Debert as Yeosan, the King; Michael Vanderpool as Gonggil, a clown; Tyler Mitchell as Jaengsaeng, a clown; Tessa Lee as Nogsu, the queen; Xaverie Baker as clown one; Kaitlynn Maccamey as clown two; Justin Petty as clown three; Kevin Upham as clown four; Yun Ji-Sang as a minister and chorus member; George Johnson III as Pansoojeong, a fortuneteller, and King Insoo; and Caris Croy as Hong, an eunuch, and chorus member.

Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. All performances will be held in the Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre.

Tickets are $8 for students; $10 for UT faculty, staff and alumni, and military members and seniors; and $15 for the general public. Call 419.530.ARTS (2787) or order online at utoledo.tix.com. Tickets also will be available at the door.