With outstanding performances and an impeccable plot, “Contemplating on a Starry Night” received rave reviews after its last performance on Nov. 21. The play broadly sought to bring awareness to the female Korean activists’ struggle for independence during the Japanese colonial period. The whole process of production was handled by the Project Isle, made up of four Ewha students during the Ewha Challenge Semester Program.
While differing in their majors and talents, the students from Project Isle were driven by emphasizing the female activists’ role in the Korean independence movement. Composer and music director, Chang Se-min, a junior from the Department of Composition, was the one who came up with the idea to produce a musical about female activists. With the help of Lee Hye-sun, a junior from the Department of Composition who handled the play director and composer roles, Chang could contact congenial co-workers. Project Isle grew into a group of four elites including the script and lyrics writer Bae Yoon- jin, a senior from the Department of Mathematics, and stage manager Jo Se-yeon, a junior majoring in Sculpture.
Taking multiple positions in production, members all had to pour their heart and soul into the production. Lee revealed that directing actors and composing numbers while working as a leader of the team required her a strong sense of responsibility.
“Contemplating on a Starry Night”: Original musical by Ewha students
Bae was most worried about how the written play would turn out on stage, as it was the first time to see her writing come to life. Most notably, the members struggled to meet the deadlines.
“On top of the numerous props, I made souvenirs to give out to people who supported our crowdfunding only in a brief time,” Jo said. “We all overworked to meet the tight deadlines. When everything came together on stage, however, we knew that our struggle was worthwhile.”
Project Isle focused on depicting the strength of women’s solidarity against the foreign intrusions and oppression on women. Meanwhile, Project Isle reflected the histories of female independence activists as they needed to be pushed into the limelight.
“The five characters were all homages to the actual Korean female activists,” Bae said. “All the characters were related to incidents derived from the actual history of the liberations of Joseon Dynasty. I have done plenty of research on women who participated in the liberations, which are mostly unknown in public. I referred to the farm tenancy dispute that happened in the 1920s and independence movements conducted by gisaengs, who were more of artists, rather than just prostitutes.”
During the play, five female characters from different backgrounds and stances come together and inspire one another to act on the anti-Japanese colonial occupation.
“The five characters learn how to encourage each other and realize that relations of caring among women have existed forever,” Bae said. “I believe the scene of reading ‘The Tale of Ms. Park’ vividly represented the women’s solidarity that grew over time.” The team drew outer narratives in the musical to imply the main ideas. For example, the musical includes “The Tale of Ms. Park,” a historical fiction about a heroic woman who led the war between Daicing and Joseon in the 17th century. The fiction provides an opportunity for a character of a passive bystander to awaken as well as representing women’s solidarity.
Members showed the deepest empathy for Lee Won-jeong who initially hesitated to join the liberation but actively participated in the end. The members resonated with her knowing that most of us would hesitate to take action toward misdeeds as well. The play heightened this in the script and dove into the genuine fears and agonies that actual female activists might have faced.
Even though Project Isle’s first performance has finished its run, the team is endeavoring to continue its productions after the Ewha Challenge Semester Program ends.
“We are willing to reperform the ‘Contemplating on a Starry Night’ or carry out the performance for whatever Bae writes,” Chang said. “We hope we have an opportunity to see our audiences, especially Ewha students, again in the theater.”