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Friday, March 28, 2003
KEEPING THE BEAT FOR PEACE
Musical is well-suited to the times
By ERIKO ARITA
"Can we sing a song of peace in a world that's full of fear?"
Although the words may sound like the kind of chant heard at antiwar rallies worldwide over the past few weeks, they are in fact part of a song in a musical that will be performed next week in Tokyo.
Han Chu Son, the South Korean director of "A Common Beat," hopes to send a message of peace to the world through the performance, believing that the common beating of hearts has the power to connect people of different backgrounds.
The 123 performers have been rehearsing the musical, whose theme centers on peace and coexistence, since February.
Since U.S. and British forces unleashed their attack on Iraq last week, the significance of this theme resonates with them stronger than ever, Han said.
"The performers want to show the importance of peace from the bottom of their hearts, not just through acting out the roles they play," she said.
The show consists of songs in English and dances from different parts of the world, including salsa, Cossack dance and Gumboots dance from South Africa.
The plot involves separate groups of people in four parts of the world -- Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas -- coming to realize each others' existence. As they communicate with each other and notice their cultural differences, tensions mount and war breaks out.
But they later reflect on their actions and accept their differences, while realizing that music has a common beat that connects them all.
"A Common Beat" was originally created by the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization Up with People and was performed at ports of call during the Japanese NGO Peace Boat's four around-the-world cruises in 2001 to 2002. The performers in the upcoming show have all taken part in the cruises.
"Rhythm and music enabled us to communicate our emotions and message to the audience," said Han, who joined Up with People's musical performances as a performer and dance instructor in 1999 and 2000. She was invited by Peace Boat to perform the musical after the U.S. NGO stopped performing it in 2001.
At one point in the musical, conflicting groups of people hear the voice of God saying: "Us? Not us? The question is, is this negative? Or could it be a plus?"
Han, originally a North Korean resident in Japan who later acquired South Korean nationality, said people tend to distance themselves from those of other groups.
"There is an invisible line between Japanese and Koreans, too," Han said, adding that she herself had negative feelings toward Japanese after being teased by Japanese children and learning at ethnic Korean schools in Tokyo about Japanese atrocities on the Korean Peninsula.
But after meeting and working on the musical with people from different backgrounds at both Up with People and Peace Boat, Han said she realized it was wrong to draw such a line.
Given her own experiences, Han said she hopes many Japanese and Korean residents will see the musical and think about how they can understand each other.
"Whether distinguishing yourself from another person is a minus or a plus is up to each individual," she said.
"A Common Beat" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 5 at Hokutopia in Kita Ward, Tokyo. Admission is 1,500 yen. For details, contact Get Universal at (03) 3360-0640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.