An international touring group will bring one of the most traditional Korean love stories to life Sunday, July 17, on the Sunnyside High School stage.
The performance of “Choon-Hyang,” a love story vaguely resembling “Romeo and Juliet,” will be performed by Theater Seoul, an English-language youth theater group whose members travel the world to sing and dance.
“Choon-Hyang” tells the story of a beautiful young girl who is pressured by her society to marry the villainous Lord Byun. Throughout the musical, Choon-Hyang must overcome deceit and treachery so she can be with her true love, Mong-Ryong.
Twenty students ranging in age from 11 to 17, plus seven staff members are in Fresno from July 14-19. The students have varying levels of English proficiency, director Kevin Kim says.
In an email, Kim says he hopes Theater Seoul students will learn about American culture and make great memories while they are in Fresno: “All the life is made of memory. Especially memories of (teenage years), which are most important. … It affects their life, like what kind of person they will be. I think this is power of arts, especially musical.”
I want the students to feel like, ‘I have a friend in Korea.’ And for the Korean students to feel like, ‘I have a friend in America.’
Valerie Salcedo, organizer for the Theater Seoul visit to Sunnyside High
Theater Seoul’s visit to Fresno is organized by musical theater performer and vocal coach Valerie Salcedo, who met the directors of the theater group in Los Angeles. Last summer, she traveled to South Korea for several weeks to work with Theater Seoul as a vocal coach, acting coach and helping the students with their English interpretation.
She also suggested a collaboration between the group and the Fresno County Youth Choir, a student choir sponsored by the Fresno County Office of Education. The Fresno County Youth Choir is helping sponsor the group’s visit.
“I wanted the two organizations to collaborate but never knew that I’d be the one leading it,” Salcedo says.
The seeds of Salcedo’s advocacy for international collaborations were planted around a dozen years ago when she was a high school student in southeast Fresno.
She fondly recalls an international trip of her own to participate in competition in London 12 years ago, a trip organized by her choral director at Sunnyside High. Salcedo, a former Miss Fresno County who spent a summer studying at the Manhattan School of Music, credits the experiences she had traveling with broadening her outlook on life.
Salcedo says she hopes that local students can have similar experiences while doing things that “a lot of middle- to lower-class students aren’t able to do, especially in southeast Fresno.
“It’s having international students collaborate with Fresno students and hoping that this could lead to the Fresno students going to Korea.” Salcedo says she hopes that the students will get exposure to the larger world through music and that the collaboration will go beyond just a performance.
“I want the students to feel like, ‘I have a friend in Korea.’ And for the Korean students to feel like, ‘I have a friend in America.’ ”
Salcedo says she expects that the partnership will continue through 2017 and beyond, noting that Theater Seoul has made repeat visits in the past to countries including Singapore, Canada and India, as well as reciprocal visits of other theater groups to South Korea.
I’m touched that we, a theater group of teenagers, can entertain audiences from different countries with our story from Korea.
Min Hur, 14, who plays the title role in ‘Choon-Hyang’
Min Hur, 14, who will play the title role in “Choon-Hyang,” says she is pleased to see how a traditional Korean tale is enjoyed by audiences around the world.
“Since our performance is based on a Korean traditional love story, it is probably new and perhaps strange in certain ways, regarding costumes and dances,” Hur says in an email. “Nevertheless, most audiences enjoy our show and some even burst out in tears after watching the show. I’m touched that we, a theater group of teenagers, can entertain audiences from different countries with our story from Korea.”
- Sunday, July 17, 2 p.m.
- Sunnyside High School, 1019 S. Peach Ave., Fresno
- Tickets are $5 and are for sale at the door