Story by: Wilfred Lee, Photos by: Stuart Simpson
A talented musician, actress and director, the prolific and exuberant Jessica Adel is a fixture in the Seoul arts scene. In recent months, she has been devoting herself to directing Seoul Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of “Hamlet,” but she recently made time in her busy schedule to talk with Artist’s Journey’s Wilfred Lee about her relationship with the Bard.
Groove Korea: How are you approaching your role as director in “Hamlet”?
Jessica Adel: Because I come from an acting background — actually, “Hamlet” is only the second full-length script I’ve ever directed — it makes it easy for me to communicate with my actors because we speak the same language.
Because I’ve been on their side of things for such a long time, I find the transition for me into directing has been pretty natural. I think about the things that really helped me as an actor, like the way that a director would talk to me, or help lead me, and it’s just so interesting watching what the actors respond to.
Every actor is different. Some actors really love to be pushed out of their comfort zones, so they want a director who is very demanding. Then there are actors who are very sensitive, and if you take that route with them, they just shut down. So the process is about understanding how to let their best work shine.
What do you think it takes to be a good actor?
Every type of artist has their toolkit. A visual artist has their ability to understand color, and line, and shape, and to see things differently than the average person does. I think an actor’s gift is that they are able to understand the basics of how people work – why people do the things that they do; what do we do when we get what we want, or don’t get what we want. An actor’s job is basically to be constantly manipulating their own self to give a desired reaction for a part. It isn’t always pretty.
How do you achieve that desired reaction?
That seems very difficult.
It’s really about understanding the goals of your character, looking at a scene and saying, “Okay, this person wants something.” Just like in real life, we are want-driven creatures. Everything we do is because we want something. I get up in the morning and go to the fridge because I want to eat something. I treat someone a certain way because I want this from them, or that from them.
A lot of the time in life, they’re not conscious decisions. We go about the things that we do, not even really aware of how much our desires are driving our choices. But as an actor, you have to look at a script and understand your character, every moment – what do they want, why are they doing what they’re doing – and then what happens emotionally should happen naturally as a byproduct of whether your character is getting what they want or not.
What projects do you have lined up after “Hamlet”?
I have something I really want to make, my artistic goal before I leave Korea, which is that I want to work in collaboration with a Korean theater company. I’ve been in contact with (one company) and some of my Korean friends who are performers there, talking about doing a joint production.
My idea is I really want to do “Romeo and Juliet” in two languages. We’d split the languages between the two houses: Romeo’s family speaks Korean, and Juliet’s family speaks (English). When the two lovers are together, they try to speak each other’s languages. It would be okay if it was a bit broken, and didn’t quite make sense, because these two characters would be trying their best to try and communicate.
More info: “Hamlet” will be performed at the Kim Dong-soo Playhouse in Hyehwa on April 13, 20 and 27 at 7:00 p.m. and April 14, 21, and 28 at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are 20,000 won.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Seoul Shakespeare Company on Facebook.
About this column: Interviews for this column are by Wilfred Lee, and transcribed and written by Alison Hjelseth. Artist’s Journey brings you daily doses of inspiration, including weekly podcasts featuring artists from around the globe. Learn more at facebook.com/myartistsjourney or www.artistsjourney.org.