Actor Park Ho-san reimagines Othello for Seoul Arts Center's 30th anniversary

Actor Park Ho-san speaks during an interview at the Seoul Arts Center on April 12. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]

Park Ho-san, who is playing Othello in the Seoul Arts Center's 30th anniversary special of William Shakespeare's masterpiece "Othello," says the legendary playwright's tragedies stand the test of time because they give us windows into the human condition.

Readers and audiences keep coming back to the classics such as Shakespeare because of the universality of the stories, he said.

But because of this very reason, Park says actors playing Shakespeare's lead characters should make sure they play their own versions to make sure the character stays fresh for the audiences of today.

Main poster for the Seoul Arts Center's 30th anniversary play ″Othello″ [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]

Park, a veteran actor who has appeared in over 300 plays and musicals since his debut in 1996, says he wanted to give Othello a new interpretation as someone who is not so easily persuaded by the antagonist Iago thus making his downfall more tragic and surprising.

“I thought Othello as he is written by Shakespeare was too gullible,” said Park during a group interview with local reporters at the Seoul Arts Center on April 12. “For Othello’s story to be more convincing, I wanted to make him much more charismatic and hard-to-deal-with. That was my interpretation of the character.”

Actor Park Ho-san speaks during an interview at the Seoul Arts Center on April 12. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]

“'Othello’ is about all those human emotions and the human condition itself, of love, jealousy, the desire to succeed and others,” said Park. “These stories pierce through what it is to be human and that is why they endure through centuries. There must have been hundreds and thousands of performances and renditions of ‘Othello,’ and I want to make my own mark.”

Being invited to the 30th anniversary play of the Seoul Arts Center was an honor, but at the same time a great challenge for Park.

“No actor will give up this chance to perform for the 30th anniversary of the country’s largest and most celebrated arts center,” said Park. “So I immediately said yes when I was offered the role, but because it was Othello, it was more difficult to come up with that immediate answer. We have gone through five different versions of the script already. During each table reading, we find something else to add on to, and my printed copy of the script has turned black with notes that I have made.”

Although Park has seen success through other mediums such as films and dramas, he keeps coming back to performance art because the stage gives an actor a special kind of freedom.

Actor Park Ho-san speaks during an interview at the Seoul Arts Center on April 12. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]

“On stage, an actor gets to have editorial power,” said Park. “What that means is that an actor gets to decide each time how to deliver a line of dialogue, how to interact with the audience, and gets to make decisions with details every time. That is different with video content like films and dramas. So I keep coming back to the stage. I have a personal goal of performing in a play at least once a year.”

Regarding the profession of acting itself and how actors must approach the craft, Park said that he feels simply imitating or trying to benchmark off of other actors is not the answer.

“Acting is like the weather — it changes fast and it should,” said Park. “If an actor follows another actor just because they admire their methods, they will fall behind. I do not even try to replicate my own acting from previous works. We always need to change and adapt. And with ‘Othello,’ I am attempting a whole new side of my acting.”

“Othello” will be performed at the Seoul Arts Center from May 12 to June 4.