In most plays performed in Daehak-ro, actors perform on the stage and the audience watches the shows. However, a comedy play called Shear Madness approaches the audience in a different way; actors in the play act based on the audience’s response. Shear Madness will lead you to the world where the magical chemistry between actors and the audience is created.
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Opening its first show in Boston in 1980, Shear Madness is one of the most popular, constantly beloved plays on the globe. The play has been performed in ten different languages and has 54 production teams. Whenever it is on the stage, a theater is filled with laughter and energetic atmosphere as audiences are naturally absorbed into the show itself. Displaying a close interaction between actors and the audience, Shear Madness attracts people to enjoy the show and to return again and again. In fact, Shear Madness is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running play in the history of the United States.
Shear Madness takes place in the Shear Madness Unisex Hair Styling Salon operated by a flamboyant gay hairdresser and his co-worker named Suji. The play revolves around the off-stage murder of a pianist, the owner of the building. Detectives, who disguise themselves as customers, soon suspect four people at the hair salon. As soon as the mysterious incident is reported, detectives who are disguised as customers, turn to the audience, asking them for assistance in solving the mystery.
This audience-engaged play changes every time it is performed. The actors in Shear Madness act out small choreographed vignettes. They are given a basic format, but change some lines in the course of the play. The experienced actors perfectly display funny ad libs. Each time, the audience reports evidence and suspicious actions taken by the suspects. With the audience’s comments, the prepared jokes are told with a good comic timing, bringing joy and laughter to the theater. A rich woman, one of the suspects in the mysterious incident, glares at the audience when they question any suspicious action she has shown.
The actors in the play incorporate not only the audience’s responses, but also references to the latest media scandals and news items such as a Korean actor’s latest scandal or a sarcastic comment on a newly elected president. While Shear Madness enables the audience to feel a strong chemistry between it and the actors, it also brings humor by referring to topics that currently interest the audience
Since the contribution of the audience is greatly emphasized in Shear Madness, the overall atmosphere of the play heavily hinges on how actively the audience participates. Luckily, various age groups with the audience enthusiastically participate in the investigation. They throw questions and yell out everything they have witnessed to the detective. Based on their clues or evidence and questions toward the suspects, the investigator eventually detects the murderer.
The outcome of Shear Madness is not the same for every performance. The investigator suspects different characters based on what the audience reports to the investigator. For instance, if the audience witnesses a suspicious action from Suji and reports it, the detective investigates her in depth. If the audience response seems valid and reasonable, the character is highly likely to be revealed as the murderer.
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Shear Madness does not simply entertain the audience. The active participation from the audience in fact conveys a significant message: the power of teamwork. Noh Yun Mi (26, Seoul), an audience member at Shear Madness, said, “I have watched countless plays in small theaters, but I can certainly say that Shear Madness is one of the best plays I have ever seen. This comedy never lets the audience be silent. What I loved the most about the play is that I was able to catch anything I had missed by listening to other people’s witnessing and reporting. The audience works as a team and I enjoyed it. I am willing to watch the performance once again with a different ending.”
Another interesting fact about Shear Madness is that it contains numerous sexual innuendos. One of the main characters is a gay hairdresser, who flirts with the men in the audience. He often makes sexual jokes with his co-worker, Suji, who also flirts with almost every male customer. Such jokes may make some of the audience feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, clearly illustrate the characters’ qualities. Sexual innuendo the actors frequently make also helps create a more fun and lighter atmosphere amid the darkness and gravity of the incident.
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Along with the excellence of the play, the actors are likely to be highly recognized. Shear Madness has played an important role in helping the actors gain popularity from the general public. Lee Sung Min, an actor who recently became famous through dramas such as “Golden Time” and “The King to Hearts,” and comedian Kim Ki Su and Lee Jung Su were actors from Shear Madness. People in the entertainment field are keeping their eyes on the next rising star that the play will produce.
People of all ages are recommended to watch the show. All age groups in the audience truly enjoy interacting with the actors and are eager to figure out who the murderer is. After a few minutes of the play, you will find yourself fully absorbed and playing an important character in the play. If you want to be part of the play, get ready to experience sheer madness by figuring out the mysterious murderer at Shear Madnes