What everyone laments about is growing old. However, the final part of one’s life can be a period when the most beautiful incidents can happen. Unlike the immature spirit of spring and the wildness of summer, fall is the season when one’s soul ripens. The snow will fall, but underneath is the start of something new, as it leads to another spring. The play The Golden Pond show the beauty of aging, as it demonstrates important life lessons – care, love, and acceptance.
▲ That cast of The Golden Pond on stage during the curtain call. Photographed by Kim Jaehyun.
The German-born social philosopher Erich Fromm said, “We are a society of notoriously unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent – people who are glad when we have killed the time we are trying so hard to save.” People in today’s world need to reset their priorities. People are driven to chase after satisfaction in the outside world – the world where materialistic desires are sought. That detracts our attention from the most precious part of our life - family – which we often forget due to their familiarity. The Golden Pond is a valuable work that helps us restore our lost value, love towards our family.
The Golden Pond was first a novel, which was adapted into a 1981 movie starring Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and his daughter, Jane Fonda, playing the role of Norman, Ethel and Chelsea. The Golden Pond realistically depicts the conflicts between family members, especially between father and daughter. A retired university professor Norman is a pessimistic character who laments fact that he is near the end of his life and is close to facing death. His wife, on the other hand, is an optimistic figure who understands his bitterness and tries to bring energy into the house.
The Korean version of The Golden Pond was acted by Korea’s most influential and renowned actors, Lee Soon Jae and Shin Gu, who alternately play the role of Norman in the play. Both of them have appeared in many weekly dramas, movies, and also the variety program Flower Over Granpas. It is noteworthy to see how the two actors interpret the character of Norman differently by adding a little bit of their personalities.
▲ Actor Shin Gu, acting Norman in the play. Photographed by Kim Jaehyun.
▲ Child actor Hong Shiro playing the part of Billy. Photographed by Lee Dawoon.
The actresses that play the role of Ethel are also accomplished individuals. Na Moon Hee and Seong Byung Sook play Ethel’s part, which incorporates softness and understanding. In an interview with
PlayDB, Na Moon Hee mentioned that she wants to become a socially influential actress who wins the hearts of the audience. “Because it is a western piece, the emotions are abundantly expressed in words. It is my job to convey the emotion with that particular optimism of Ethel.” It is her hope that the audience will see Ethel’s love towards her husband and come to take on the caring aspect of the character.
Norman has always been a stubborn man. He was a strict father who is hard on his children about learning specific skills. Because of that, the relationship between Norman and his daughter Chelsea have been tense and awkward for a long time. The father and daughter relationship is the main conflict, and the play progresses towards solving this conflict with the introduction of new family members and showing how they heal each others’ emotional wounds.
The Golden Pond is where Norman and Ethel’s vacation home is located. The couple annually comes to The Golden Pond to spend the summer time. This year, their daughter Chelsea pays a surprise visit to the vacation home, as Chelsea rarely visited her parents because of her distant relationship with his father. She brings her new boyfriend Bill and his son Billy, and asks her parents to take care of Billy while she goes on a European tour with Bill.
When viewing the play, the audience can see the gradual changes that Norman is making while Billy stays at the golden pond. Norman spends his days with Billy as they go fishing together. Those times with Billy remind Norman of when Chelsea was young and the two used to misunderstand each other. While Norman slowly opens up his feelings to Chelsea, who is also encouraged to share serious conversation with her father, and they finally resolve the conflict that has existed since her childhood. Love of a family was the very medicine that cured the emotional scars of Norman and Chelsea and what resolved the barriers that existed between the two.
The Golden Pond casts light on a problem that both the young and old generation can ponder upon. We are all someone’s daughter or son and can sympathize with the trouble that comes from conflicts with one’s parents. Audiences in their 20s and 30s can certainly understand how their parents’ lives are correlated to their own lives and how the reconciliation of family members brings out a positive spirit. The lesson learned at the end of the play is that accepting problems and solving them through love is what brings happiness into a home.
For the elderly, the play inspires thoughts about what it means to grow old. Just like Norman, one might become a pessimistic thinker that considers their daily life as meaningless, being near death. On the other hand, one could be an optimist like Ethel, aware of the bitterness and fruitfulness of old age. Whomever the audience feels represents them, the beauty of growing old is, just as the play insinuates, being tolerant, understanding and loving. Indeed, this is the wisdom that the elderly gain, and comprehend as they age.
The set of The Golden Pond shows the interior of the vacation home, and the background is a stretch of sunset filling up the sky. It is as if the background corresponds with the setting of the story, in which the sunset means the end of the day, and symbolizes the ending of one’s life. The sunset is beautiful and the same for life; the latter part of one’s life is made beautiful by the accumulation of wisdom and life lessons. The Golden Pond is a play that mesmerizes the audience with sentiments that everyone can sympathize with.
▲ Painting of golden pond. Provided by Karenwinters.co
<Performance Information >
Venue: DFC Daemyung Munwha Factory Vivaldi Park Hall