Dancing With Spirit: Korean Mask and Object Theater

Dancing With Spirit: Korean Mask and Object Theater

Curated by Kathy Foley 

February 12, 2012 - August 25, 2012

 

Shamanism and Buddhism form deep roots of the Korean mask theatre (often called talchum, literally “mask dance”) as is evident from episodes where shamans exorcise the dead and Buddhist monks or Buddhist lions appear. These elements (Shaman, Monk, and lion) may be the oldest masks and are said to have come to Korea via China, brought by itinerant or Buddhist performers. However the traditions we see today reached the current forms sometime in the late Yi dynasty (early 19th century) when comic social criticism which strikes out equally at the elite class (yangban) and the rather lowly monks monks (jung) was the norm. The commoners were the performers and their views are preserved in these improvised mask, puppet, and mime traditions. All performers were male until the early 20th century when women began to play the young monks and young female roles. As with the Western commedia dell’arte, this is a masked theatre of set types and this exhibit introduces these characters and their iconography. The performance features music and dance. Actors improvise dialogue to pre-set scenarios.

Dancing With Spirit Exhibit

Korean Mask Exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Kathy Foley is a Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of California Santa Cruz and the Editor of Asian Theatre Journal. She has worked on mask and puppet traditions of Asia and curated exhibits on these arts which have been presented at Northern Illinois University along with many other sites.  Past exhibits curated by Foley at NIU includes:  Gods and Demons, Monkeys, and Men: Masks of Southeast Asia (April-June 2005) and An Asian Mosaic: South and Southeast Asian Puppetry (November 2002-February 2003).

Korean Mask Exhibit