SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, March 21, 2018 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government will reopen the Cecil Theater that used to be closed as of January 2018 due to financial difficulties. The city government will have a long-term lease to preserve historic meaning and functions of the 42-year-old theater, and also to protect its valuable cultural asset in an effort for cultural regeneration in the city. A non-profit organization will be designated soon for the theater’s professional operation.
Established in 1976, the Cecil Theater is a place where holds Korea’s modern history and architectural values as well as theatrical arts and culture. Even though it had lived on a long past reputation while undergoing five rounds of change, it had suffered from financial troubles in a flood of diverse commercial media.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Cecil Theater was the heart of Korean small theater performances. It was the very first venue of the Korean Theater Festival, now the Seoul Theatre Festival, and was used as a conference hall for stage actors and actresses. The small theater culture as a new spirit of the times also had begun here in opposition to commercial performing arts.
In addition to the art scene, the declaration for the June Democracy Movement, a nationwide democracy movement that generated mass protests in June 1987, was announced in this Cecil Theater, which gives a historic meaning to the theater.
The Cecil Theater is now located in the annex building of the Cathedral of the Korean Anglican Church, which was initially built as a meeting hall. The consideration to build this one had been started for the first time in 1973 when the Church was suppressed by the revitalizing regime. When those from the Church got the information that the Myeongdong National Theater would be demolished soon, they decided to open a theater named after Ceil Cooper, the fourth Bishop in Korea from 1931until 1954.
With its classical architecture, the Cecil Theater is one of the “most beautiful architecture 20 of Seoul” selected by Korea’s leading architecture monthly magazine SPACE. In recognition of its architectural and cultural values, the Seoul Metropolitan Government designated it as one of the Seoul’s future assets in 2013.
In line with the reopening of the theater, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced the master plan titled “Cecil Regeneration Project” to preserve the historic theater and its nearby Jeong-dong trails of the “Road of the Korean Empire.” The Jeong-dong area was selected as one of the urban regeneration project in June 2016 to protect and utilize the area’s historical and cultural assets. The reopening of the Cecil Theater will play a leading gesture in the area’s regeneration project.
According to the plan;
Firstly, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will make close cooperation with the Cathedral of the Korean Anglican Church, the owner of the theater, and have a long-term lease of it to preserve it, and then sublease it to a theater operation organization.
Secondly, the city government will use the theater as a core facility to activate Road of the Korean Empire, encouraging visitors to make historical and cultural exploration to the Jongdong trail from the Deoksugung Stonewall, King Gojong’s Path to Yangyijaero, one of the designated cultural assets. The theater’s rooftop space will be widely open to the public for free use.
Lastly, the theater will be used as a central place for regional community governance activities for Jeong-dong’s history restoration project. Diverse workshops, exhibitions, educational programs and other community events as well as theatrical performances will take place at the theater.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon said, “This Jong-dong area features many valuable historical and cultural assets of Korea. And the Cecil Theater is a meaningful place for Korea’s democracy, containing the spirit of the times. Its cultural restoration will provide us a good opportunity to expand this spirit and share it with the citizens.” He also added, “Urban regeneration is not just about improving the urban environment, but about preserving what we should not lose nor forget and restoring and enjoying it in tune with the present.”