Connecting Artists Globally through Empowerment in the Arts
Kent State University’s School of Theatre and Dance faculty member and acclaimed lighting designer, Jakyung Seo, facilitated a trip, eight years in the making, to South Korea for Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT). This trip aimed to serve as a bridge between artists across the globe to create a safe space for equality and creative expression. Jakyung Seo served as a coordinator of the trip, developed international connections and participated in the workshops. She is a lighting designer, educator and artist who contributes to the community through her work.
Jakyung Seo has been participating in international festivals since 2006 including Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Avignon Festival, Sibiu Theatre Festival, Busan Performing Arts Festival and Boder Lights Festival. She is also a co-artistic director of the Global Women’s Performing Arts Festival (GWPAF).
The idea for this project started in 2016 with the goals of sharing CPT’s strategy of building community through the arts, sharing theatrical techniques to inspire artists and empowering female artists in South Korea among others. In June 2023, CPT Executive Artistic Director, Raymond Bobgan and Holly Holsinger, Cleveland State University’s theatre and dance department chair, went to South Korea at the invitation of GWPAF.
In South Korea, Raymond Bobgan conducted a community workshop for Busan Bukgu Cultural City Center. Participants shared stories based on the concept of hope, which were performed by the others in the workshop. An elderly man shared a story of his struggles fighting for democracy in the 80s and 90s. His moving story of sacrifice and risk was performed by an 11-year-old boy. Holly Holsinger conducted rehearsals for “Dear Helen,” a new show created by Festival Chairman, Hyeja Ju. The play highlights three key moments in the life of Helen Keller, with each scene performed by a woman from a different country.
Holly Holsinger and Raymond Bobgan co-led a workshop in performance creation with a focus on women’s rights and empowerment. The participants shared stories of courage, imagined the whispers of female ancestors, created scenes about what women are told they can be in South Korea, and embodied a better world for the future.
"While working overseas as a lighting designer, I met various female artists. Women have been working their creativeness like a candlelight in invisible places. When I build a bridge to meet those women artists who are lighting their candles in their own country, those women artists are creating works beyond imagination. And the works are their voices that represent their communities. And I felt grateful to be an artist again." said Jakyung Seo
About Jakyung Seo
As a professional lighting designer, Seo designed more than 100 productions. Seo’s work has been presented at Steppenwolf, Congo Square Theatre in Chicago, Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Contemporary American Theatre Company in Ohio (CATCO) in Columbus, HEAR theatre in NY, and Lodestone Theatre in LA. Her international credits include Face at Edinburgh (UK), BINARI at Avignon Off Festival (France), Theatre Laboratory Elizabeth Czerczuk (France), Sibiu International Theatre Festival (Romania), Busan International Performing Arts Festival, and What We Want Is for Thrust Dance Company where she got awarded the best prize at the International Dance Festival in Saitama, Japan.
Currently, Seo is co-artistic director of Global Women Performing Arts Festival (GWPAF) (https://gwfeng.imweb.me/). The Global Women Performing Arts Festival focused on female artists and their voices. Internationally, she has taught lighting design workshops in Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea. Seo is a Professor of Lighting Design and a Coordinator of BFA and MFA design, Technology and Production at Kent State University.
As a scholar, Seo has presented more than 20 sessions at PQ Scenofest in Prague, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) since 2004.
Internationally, she has taught lighting design workshops in Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea. Seo. Seo is a Professor of Lighting Design and the Coordinator of BFA and MFA Design, Technology and Production at Kent State University (KSU). Prior to joining the faculty at Kent State University she taught at the University of Cincinnati, California State University at Fresno and University of Toledo.
About The Global Women’s Performing Arts Festival
The Global Women’s Performing Arts Festival (GWPAF), led by Korean artists Hyeja Ju and Jisook Lee, was formed to celebrate women in theatre and dance and to address misogyny in the arts and around the world. The first festival for female artists in Korea, GWPAF aims to act as a bridge between the language of art and human equality. This festival will gather voices and movements from all over the world and bring them to the stage to change the narrative.
Learn more at https://gwf.kr/eng/