Tuesday, December 16, 2003

don't expect Swiss efficiency at a Korean event, but have fun anyway

My emceeing gig went off with relatively few mistakes, but I owe this to my own (resigned) flexibility. Generally speaking, I'm a closed-minded asshole about how things should be done. I don't like surprises, and I don't like being flexible when I'm the one who has to manage events. I'm something of a control freak. My feeling is: Make a plan for an event; make any revisions to the plan before the event; stick to the plan during the event, and no one gets hurt.

Unfortunately, you can't think like that when you emcee, and screw the plan if you're the host of a Korean event like last night's Christmas party.

Not all of last night's wackiness is attributable to zigzaggy Koreanness, though. The ladies in charge of the Washington Korean Women's Society Christmas Party were still relatively new officers for the 2003-04 term, and this was their first big event (if you define "big" as about 90 attendees). So greenness played as much a role in the confusion as Koreanness.

But Koreanness usually leads to the Bridge on the River Kwai Law: there's always one more thing. I'm used to it by now, because my mother is the champion of "Oh, and one more thing before you go..." I've been guilty of doing this myself, and I know which parent I got this habit from.

Luckily, I had a plan. A thirteen-page plan. With contingency plans built in, because I knew the evening wasn't going to go according to the program. An example of some of the changes I had to deal with on the fly last night:

We were supposed to start at 6:55PM. We started at 7:10. If you're Korean, this doesn't matter. If you're Swiss or American, we started late.

The program featured only one guest speaker-- our keynote speaker, Dr. Park Yoon Soo (nice guy, by the way... and now I have a thoroughly-undeserved Seoul National University connection). We ended up having three guest speakers, and I had to decide where to fit them in, allowing for the fact that one speaker, the Consul General of the Embassy of Korea, had to leave early.

Three door prize drawings were scheduled to occur during the dancing phase of the party. This is what we'd told the DJ. Somehow, three morphed into four. The DJ, who'd worked with WKWS before, was a real pro about the whole thing.

Thanks to Saddam Hussein's capture, it was decided on the fly that we needed to sing "God Bless America" at the beginning of the evening. Lemme tell you... we had no rhythm. No rhythm at all, despite the canned music from the boom box.

Because the party started late, the Coldspring Duo (providing musical ambience for the cocktail hour) wasn't able to stay long enough for the entire dinner; it was left up to me to tell them they could pack up and leave at the time they were scheduled to leave, which was 8PM.

Although I'd been asked to speak at length about the WKWS Scholarship Fund, it was suddenly decided that one of the WKWS officers should talk about it, because the scholarship is WKWS's raison d'être, and it might look bad to shunt this job to the emcee, even if the emcee happens to be the son of a former WKWS executive (Mom was society president a few years back... the organization had a different name then). This bothered me, because it was all about appearances. First off, I'd been asked to give the spiel because I was told the new Scholarship Chair hadn't had time to prepare a speech... and in fact hadn't begun reading up on the scholarship's current status: she knew literally nothing about the scholarship fund she was chairing. So another officer gave me some scholarship info to work with, and I crafted my own speech based on that. This was the plan; I was ready to carry this part of the evening, because I'd known about this contingency beforehand. The sudden reversal, right at the party, was annoying, but the reason for the reversal-- appearances-- was even more annoying. So I insisted on a compromise: let me do most of the talking, and one of the officers can speak for 30 seconds about the most recent scholarship recipients. And that's what we did.

But despite these setbacks and others, I rolled with events and ended up enjoying myself.

Anyone who's done theater, as I and the Maximum Leader have (he doesn't talk about it, but Mike landed the role of Geoffrey in "The Lion in Winter" years back), knows quite well that events involving a lot of people rarely go as planned. The fewer rehearsals there are, the more likely the snafus will be. An event like the WKWS Christmas Party is completely unrehearsed, so it's unrealistic to expect everything to go smoothly. I remained fairly relaxed the entire evening (and was tired as hell by the end), so despite my griping and mild annoyance, I tend to think it all went well. My brother Sean and his friend Adele (holy SHIT she's cute) did their Boccherini cello duet to much applause, then did a surprise rendition of "Arirang," as I expected. Even more applause. I found out this morning that Sean composed the arrangement they used.

Somehow, events like this tend to gel. The process seems messy, especially when you're in the chaotic middle of it, but in the end, it's possible to look back at the evening and pronounce it good.

Last night was good. I might even do it again next year if they ask me, and if I'm in the States.


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