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Yoon Suk-hwa bids tearful farewell to theater.

Located a bit off the main street of Seoul's theater district Daehangno, Theater Jungmiso is not one of the fanciest ones, but it has been home to many thespians who staged a variety of experimental plays and musicals.

The theater will fade into history once Yoon Suk-hwa's farewell monodrama performance "Letter to a Daughter" slated for June 11 to 22 wraps up.

The 190-seat theater is owned by the 63-year-old actress, who financed the building of the theater in 2002, renovating a former public bathhouse with the help of architect Jang Yoon-gyoo. Jungmiso is Korean for rice mill, as Yoon wanted the place to produce artistry and beauty as if pounding rice from its husk.

"I thought I am too old to commemorate something, but then I thought I might regret if I don't give a proper farewell to this theater," Yoon said at a press conference at the theater on May 16. "There was joy and sadness at this theater. It breaks my heart to perform for the last time at Jungmiso, but nothing lasts forever and I am happy to leave the traces of me doing my best here."

The theater has been in financial difficulties for years and Yoon said she cannot continue to operate it anymore as the building has now been sold. "It was difficult to reach the break-even point while operating this theater. When I am on stage, tickets sell better and I could cover the loss, but I can't perform all the time," she said. "At the same time, I feel I've done enough and want to live as an actress from now on."

"Letter to a Daughter," written by British playwright Arnold Wesker, is one of Yoon's major repertoire pieces. The play revolves around a single mother in her 40s, writing letters to her adolescent daughter and reflecting on her life. Yoon gave the play a world premiere at the Sanwoolim Theater in 1992, under the direction by Lim Young-woong. The one-hander enjoyed a 10-month sold-out run.

However, the show and Yoon had some ups and downs when the actress was embroiled in a fake degree scandal in 2007 and tax evasion in 2013 involving her husband Kim Seok-ki, CEO of the now-defunct Joongang Bank. Yoon was to reprise her role in "Letter to a Daughter" at Myeongdong Theater in 2013, but it was canceled after the tax allegations.

Yoon will stage the play in London in 2020, with the exact schedule to be announced later. The Seoul performance, directed by Kim Tae-hoon, will be in the format of an open rehearsal, combining Korean lines and English lyrics for new songs composed by Choi Jae-kwang for the London production.

"It might be little bit weird for audiences since I will speak in Korean and then sing in English. I can read lines in Korean, but it is impossible to translate English lyrics into Korean in such a short time. It will be performed fully in English in London next year," Yoon explained.

While running a theater for 17 years, Yoon has nurtured many young thespians with passion.

"I had this sponsoring project for thespians who could not afford production costs. When I provide this theater and some funding, they could produce sincere plays. A good theater is where good performances are staged. I was happy to hear that Theater Jungmiso had the identity of being a home to experimental productions," she said.

"I lived fiercely for this theater and now can put it down and fade out, like a beautiful sunset."

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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Date:May 20, 2019
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