In the midst of a quiet residential alleyway of brick houses, a bright sign welcomes people to Theatre Sinchon. Reminiscing the past when the youthful ardor of artists, writers, and students filled the area, the venue now stands as the only little theater of Sinchon.
In the winter of 2016, Jun Jin-mo and his colleagues from Yonsei University’s drama society ‘Togul’ hosted a play reading session. Thinking of the 80’s Sinchon where small theaters bustled with people wanting to expand their experience, they made plans for Theatre Sinchon, which became visualized a year after
Funded by a crowd-funding page called ‘Tumblbug,’ Theatre Sinchon was quick to collect 40 million won. Although even Tumblbug’s officials personally called Jun to warn him that his target amount was too much, there were many people with affection for Sinchon and they willingly pitched in. Ranging from celebrities like Sohn Suk-hee and Na Young-seok, to those who spent their university years in Sinchon, various people made Theatre Sinchon possible.
“We wanted to create a place where people could not only see plays, but also gather and talk about the performances with one another.” Jun said.
Highly valuing communication, Theatre Sinchon’s unique structure gives an interesting tweak. Classified as a ‘black-box’ theater, there is no boundary between the stage and seats in Theatre Sinchon. Sometimes there are chairs, sometimes cushions, and the location of the stage changes to fit the play. Allowing artists and audience to be more autonomous, the theater has unlimited creativity.
Using such characteristic, many performances are staged outside the box. Watching a play while sprawled across the floor is not something to be surprised about when you are at Theatre Sinchon.
“A play ‘It Shouldn’t be this way,’ was another interesting one that extended the stage even further,” Jun said. “The actor guided the audience to open the windows and look outside. Looking through the window, there was another actor standing outside on the nearby hills, where they continued the play from there.”
Another feature that makes Theatre Sinchon stand unique amongst other small theaters is their GV (Guest Visit). Question and Answer sessions with the director or actor is common in small theaters, but Jun takes it to another level.
“One thing I did not want to do is a typical ‘GV’ session” Jun said. “I didn’t want a crowd of people awkwardly asking questions in a formal manner. I wanted a small group of people to chill, get to know each other, and comfortably discuss things.”
Like Jun says, Theatre Sinchon hosts intimate discussion sessions with the artists. After the last show, the artists and audience sometimes gather for chimaek or go out to the theater’s balcony to have a can of beer when the weather is nice.
However, no matter how much Theater Sinchon is called unique and special, Jun wants to push the boundaries even further.
“It’s still not enough,” Jun said. “I want the talks to be even more intimate. I also want people to grow intimate with the theater itself, seeing the theater as a place to occasionally stop by before going home.”
The initial purpose of the theater was to revive Sinchon to its lively past. As various culture festivals take place and other unique venues open, many eyes are drawn to the area. When asked if Sinchon could go back to its old days, Jun stressed that it is important to prolong the current public attention.
“We might be able to attract public attention for a while,” Jun said. “However, the question is whether this interest will continue. Theatre Sinchon is almost like planting seeds. If we continue to attract youth and make a larger population love the culture of Sinchon, the tree will grow and Sinchon might retrieve its past charm.”