Story by: Wilfred Lee, Photos by: Kevin Lambert
Raymond C. Salcedo first visited Korea 20 years ago while stationed on a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine, taking the helm as the vessel chased Russian, Chinese and North Korean submarines throughout the west Pacific. Now the writer-director is the associate director of Seoul Shakespeare Company, whose staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” he directed in May. He has worked with various other production companies based in Korea, including Seoul Players and Camarata Music Company. His latest project was the script for the short comedy “Caliban’s” — the 2012 winner of Seoul Players’ Ten Minute Play Festival — which premiered on screen in July. Artist’s Journey’s Wilfred Lee sat down with Salcedo to discuss writing and directing for theater in Korea.
Groove Korea: How did you come up with the idea for “Caliban’s”?
Raymond Salcedo: I was reading a very tragic nonfiction book that detailed accounts of the famine in North Korea, and one narrator described a market that used dead bodies they’d collected to serve in soups for the living. In one part, a woman recalls trying to persuade her friend to eat the soup in order to survive, and she used some pretty twisted logic to get her friend to do so. And I chuckled. I decided immediately to write a satiric play featuring a similar dynamic. I have to say that I very much love what the genius filmmaker that is Kevin Lambert did with my humble little play. It’s truly a stunning piece.
At this point in your directing career, what is the process like?
The 10-minute play I’m currently directing (“Odd Man Out”) is a very risque one that pushes actors to commit in ways most actors have not. I needed them to trust both me and the process in order to feel safe and certain that the choices we are making for the production are about the art and are not merely gratuitous or exploitative. Fortunately, they are a generous group of talent, and I have rarely had as much fun in the rehearsal room as I’ve had with these beautiful people.
What’s your writing process like?
It depends on the project. Last year, I woke up from a nightmare at 4 a.m. and wrote the bulk of a play based on my dream in about an hour. Of course, I worked on it for months after that before submitting it to Seoul Players’ Ten Minute Play Festival last year. I’m proud that it advanced to the finals that year, and I hope to film that play as well, perhaps this fall.
For other writing projects, I usually start with a kernel of an idea — maybe it’s just a line or two — and I write from there, hoping to discover a message that I can convey. The wonderful thing is that I find inspiration in many, many different forms.
What forms of writing do you enjoy most?
Playwriting, just because I love to visualize how a piece might be staged live in a theater. I’m also beginning to enjoy adapting scripts for the screen. Honestly, any form is satisfying as long as I’m able to get something I want out of me. It actually feels like I’m suffocating if I can’t express myself creatively when I have the impulse. It can come out as words typed in my computer or as colors brushed on a canvas.
How has being a director in Korea influenced or helped you?
There are tons of challenges working in a foreign country, so I’ve sharpened my skills in problem solving, which are a large part of directing and producing anywhere. I’ve also grown to appreciate what it means to put on a show in a particular place and cultural context. I’ve learned to focus my message so that it’s relevant and appealing to a broader, multinational audience.
What makes a great director?
In my humble opinion, directors need a solid vision and the leadership skills to see it through. Directors absolutely need to believe in their vision so that all their actors and collaborators have faith in the project. Everyone involved wants to know that what they’re committing so much of their time and energy to is worth it. It’s the director’s job to make sure that happens.
What are your future plans for writing or directing?
I plan on staying in Seoul for the foreseeable future, so I hope to continue writing, directing and filming shows here. I also want to stage a full-length play that I’ve been writing — maybe in the next year or so. Currently, I’m in preproduction for SSC’s next main stage show, “Titus Andronicus.” I guarantee that this show will be unforgettable.