As the weather gets cold and the winter break approaches, we naturally tend to relax and go for a winter sleep. However, there is an actor who burns this cold winter with a passion. It is the icon of passion in the musical world, Lee Geonmyung. He has been the living history of the Korean musical scene for 24 years since his debut, along with his major plays including, Jack The Ripper, A Tale of Two Cities, and Gwanghwamun Yeonga. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) met actor Lee Geon-myung, who always exudes positive energy, to talk about his musical footsteps, his source of enthusiasm, and his future direction.
The Boy Who Dreamed of Becoming a Musical Actor
1. Please introduce yourself to the Kingos.
Hi, I’m Lee Gun-myung, an actor who has been doing musicals for 24 years.
2. How did you first take the path of the musical actor?
The beginning was very fateful, and I still think that musicals are my destiny. I went to see a movie with my friends when I was in high school, but I could not watch the movie I wanted to because it was sold out. On the way back, some actors were giving out discount tickets for musicals. With the discount vouchers, my friends and I happened to see the musical Guys and Dolls. Watching the musical, I was shocked as if I had been hit by a nuclear bomb. I thought ‘This is it,’ at that very moment. My favorite things were all in it; dancing, acting and singing
The Icon of Passion: Lee Gun-myung
3. What do you think of your nickname, the "icon of passion" in the musical scene?
I am not the only one working hard. Musical actors have got to work hard. There is no choice. We dance, sing, and act. Also, there are so many different kinds of dances that we need to master from ballet to Korean dance to acrobatics. Not only do I sing vocal music, but I also learned how to connect my voice doing pansori as well. I have been acting since I went to the Seoul Institute of Arts, majoring in acting. Only when you don’t split your time and use it in vain can you hear little compliments as an actor.
4. What are the sources of energy and self-care tips that make you active on stage?
The most fundamental source is my crazy love for being on stage. I am so happy to be on stage that I have not rested for 24 years. I want to be on stage for over 80 years, but I realized that my only way is to take care of my health. That could be my secret tip, taking very good care of my health. So now, I do enjoy going out and having fun, but I can control myself. Actors have to be chosen, so if you think about how you might not be cast if you don’t exercise, you cannot resist going out for a run.
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living your daily life as an actor?
The advantage is that I can have a unique view of the world. For example, I played the role of a presidential security guard in a performance called The Days. At that time, when I saw the news, I watched the guards on the side closely, not the president. It is so fun how tiny things that people do not care about can be excessively interesting to me, depending on my role. The downside is that I can’t feel my feelings wholly. When I am extremely sad or angry, another me tries to remember the moment for acting and watches me from a third point of view to save how I feel. Sometimes I feel a sense of self-destruction because of this.
The Future of Lee Gun-myung and the Korean Musical Scene
6. What is your personal goal and career goal as an actor?
My personal goal is to be healthy. Health seems to be an absolute condition to be happy. I think you can laugh a lot and be happy every day if you are healthy. And my goal as an actor is to be on stage until I am over 80. I love the stage so much that I want to achieve that goal, but I think the only thing that can help me do it is also my health. If my voice is broken and my body is ruined, I can’t stand on stage. I’ve tasted the joy of being on the stage for over 20 years, and if I cannot get on stage, I don’t think I can be happy. After all, I could say my ultimate goal is to be healthy and happy on stage until I become old.
7. How has the musical world changed so far, and how do you see the direction the Korean musical industry should take in the future?
The key to the change in the musical world seems to be the ratio of the arts and commerce. When I first started, the musical was not a genre that people loved, and there was a sense that musical actors live hungry lives. However, the musical industry began to grow, and the musical is on track to be loved by the public. So now, musicals are leaning towards commercial content in the mask of art. However, I hope that industrial elements will always be the protection of the artistry of musicals while pursuing the passion of pursuing artistry. I hope the people who make up the stage and the people who come to watch musicals do not give up the purity of art in musicals.
8. Please give some advice for the Kingos.
Do not be afraid. No one knows how things will turn out. Since you are a university student, I am sure there are times when there seem to be walls in front of you, and you suffer so many hardships. But as I mentioned before, no one knows what synergies that time will bring to you. It is sad to watch young students having such a hard time these days when it should be their golden time. Happiness seems to be more about frequency than size. I think happiness is how much I can laugh today. So, I feel happy with the big and small things. I think a cup of warm and delicious coffee in the morning is happiness. I wish you could live with this mindset as well and be positive. Do not be afraid!
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