This weekend, the Busan English Theater Association adds yet anothet performance to its repertoire with it’s production of James McLure’s ‘1959 Pink Thuderbird Convertible.’ I asked director Kerry Maher why he chose this particular play.
“I was looking for a show that would be fun for both the cast and audiences. The show, while absolutely a comedy, also deals with a sense of nostalgia that almost anyone, especially expats in Korea, can relate to. The 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible in the show represents a longing for a simpler, easier, more familiar time and even though the show is set in 1975, I felt that all of us in Korea sometimes share that sense of longing for what we have left behind in our home countries. Since there is a bit of a lull in activity between Halloween and the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving, I thought early November would be a great time to mount a production.”
Kerry Maher was a professor at the University of South Carolina before coming to Korea, as well as a professional actor and director. As an actor, he has appeared in films, television, commercials and on stage. He has directed professional, university and community theatre productions in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. He acted with Sharon Stone in the movie, “Last Dance” and with John Cusack and Anthony Hopkins in “The Road to Wellville” and was a guest star on the TV drama, “In the Heat of the Night.” In 1998, he appeared in a commercial for the South Carolina governor’s race that was named the “Best Political Ad of the Year” by The National Journal. He has been involved in many of BETA’s recent performances, most notably last year’s performance of The Blue Room.
There are amazingly talented actors, directors, writers and technicians in Busan. The Busan English Theatre Association coordinates and presents a wonderful variety of productions.
Sarah Dawn Lowry, who was a professional stage manager in The U.S. before coming to Korea, says, “I’ve personally watched theater in Busan go from a select few interested expats to a much larger vision with a wide range of talent and ideas. I really hope we can keep seeing this kind of growth and expansion as the Korean theater groups begin to welcome us.”
BETA pioneer, Jenna Apollonia, added, “After working in BETA for four years, I think it has grown a lot. We started with Shakespeare and now we are providing all sorts of quality entertainment for the people of Busan and all of Korea. It still amazes me how fast we have grown and the connections made through working on it.”
When asked about the challenges of putting on shows here in Korea, Maher said, “The challenges are very similar to those of putting on a show in the US. For example, finding a venue, finding rehearsal space, coordinating schedules are essential first steps. All these elements are a bit more challenging in Korea but really universal to any theatrical endeavor. Acquiring the performance rights has been a tedious and expensive undertaking. The rights for the show are controlled by Dramatists Play Service in New York, but we had to apply through their Korean representative in Seoul. Most non-theater people don’t realize that we have to pay $100 US per show to perform them legally. Acting challenges primarily involve creating Texas accents that are consistent and believable. Production challenges include getting lumber ordered and delivered in time to build our set, since we only have the theatre space for two days before we open. Also, since we have to have Lone Star beer (not sold in Korea) we have to create labels. One of the biggest challenges is finding Baby Ruth candy bars in Korea. De Anne’s parents are bringing us some when they visit from the US. Just as in the US the challenge of marketing and promotion to get people to come the show is the final hurdle.”
The six-person cast includes some of Busan’s veteran actors such as De Anne Dubin, who was a professional actor in The U.S., Patrick Sanders, who has been involved in many performances both in Busan and Ulsan and fresh faces such as Ryan Estrada, a local writer and animator who graces the stage this weekend in his first major acting role.
Actress Holly Ive Bartkowiak, who has been an active member of BETA says of her role, “I’m thrilled to be in this production of “1959 Pink Thunderbird Convertible”. When Kerry asked if I might be interested in the part of ‘Hattie’, providing me a brief description of the character, I knew this Holly would love playing a sassy Hattie. I love this era–the 70s. The style, the slang, the seemingly easiness about it, compared to our modern world. Even more, I love the south. Being from New York, I’ve always been fond of southern hospitality and mannerisms. It’s been hard with all the memorizing with such a small cast–loads of banter and dialogue, not to mention getting the accent down, but I’m so happy to take this on.”
The performance, which is 2.5 hours and consists to two related one-act comedies: “Laundry and Bourbon” and “Lone Star” will be held at Suyeong Butterfly Theatre (청춘나비소극장), Suyeong Station Exit 12
Friday, November 7th 8:00 pm “Pay -What -You -Want” Night
Saturday, November 8th 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm: 5,000 in advance 10,000 at-the- door
Sunday, November 9th 2:00 pm: 5,000 in advance 10,000 at-the- door
How to buy tickets:
In advance from cast/crew or online: pinkthunderbird.eventbrite.com