By Lois Allore

The Painters: HERO is a nonverbal ensemble of four or five men in black hats and paint-splattered vests who draw portraits live to music, interjecting comedy and dance on stage. Amazingly, they create pieces of art on large canvases using eight materials, including acrylic paint and charcoal.

During the 70-minute performance at Seoul Cinema in Jongno, the ensemble interacts with the audience, choosing one lucky participant to join them on the stage. The heroes they paint include Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and the Little Mermaid.

My husband and I recently spent a wonderful Saturday evening watching The Painters: HERO, which we recommend if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary in Seoul to spend your time. The group performed at the SIWA Gala this spring.

Nicole Kim at The Painters: HERO gave me some insight to the show and its performers. Below are edited excerpts:

Q. How often do you change up the routines?

A. For the theater show, it’s hard to change as music, video, dance and comedy is all combined and affect each other. However, when we have a good opportunity to find new elements through TV appearances or event shows, we try to apply them in the theater show gradually. In this way, we’re consistently upgrading step by step since 2010.

Where do you get your ideas?

Our biggest task is to find the best element to suit everyone’s taste. Even though we’re doing art performance, most of the ideas come from all types of media by chance, not just looking at art pieces. Sometimes an idea pops up during dinner time. In other words, we keep looking for the material and if an idea came out in our daily life, we gather it and test it out to be part of the show. Just like artists, writers or creators get their inspiration from everyday life, I guess we’re the same as them.

Any plans to expand to other countries?

The show has been performed in major cities including Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Bangkok, Hollywood, and Washington, D.C. Seoul & Jeju performances have reached more than 1 million people in 5,000 shows within four years, the fastest ticket-selling ever.

For now, except for event shows, we don’t have a touring schedule. However, we’re waiting for the good opportunity to perform on Broadway or at the Sydney Opera House soon. We’re confident that anyone will like our show, once they see us performing.

What is the background of your performers?

Amazingly, none of the actors majored in art in school prior to joining The Painters: HERO team. With six months of rigorous training combined with their passion, they are now one of the best few actor-painters who can dance and draw at the same time.

Do performers find you or do you scout talent?

Even though it’s an art performance, we don’t look out for art majored actors. So we upload an official audition announcement. During the casting process we suggest actors present drawing skills, but this doesn’t affect the main factor for casting.

The reason is we look out for cast members who have endurance and patience as they need to go through at least six months of training before they are ready to perform on stage. They need to push themselves to master painting skills so that at the end of the training, they would be able to draw even with their eyes closed. Without extraordinary passion, it is impossible to overcome all the training sessions. Therefore, our main criteria of choosing the cast is their passionate attitude for the show.

About the author: Lois Allore, from the United States, has been a SIWA member since February 2017.