Im­pact of ‘com­fort’ atroc­i­ties ex­plored through drama

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By NA LI in Toronto re­nali@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Even in the worst of cir­cum­stances, love, it seems, still finds a way.

Red Snow Col­lec­tive is pre­sent­ing the world premiere of Com­fort, a drama that fea­tures live mu­sic, in­no­va­tive stag­ing and styl­ized move­ment.

Com­fort is the love story of two Chi­nese youth — a fish­er­man, Ping Yang, and the daugh­ter of an es­teemed silk mer­chant, Dan Feng — who find love and friend­ship in their shared pas­sion for opera against the back­drop of World War II. As their city of Nan­jing is gripped by the Nan­jing Mas­sacre and hun­dreds of thou­sands are bru­tally mur­dered, the lovers be­come sep­a­rated when Dan Feng is cap­tured and im­pris­oned in a “com­fort” house in Shang­hai.

“I felt like I have been given a very im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity to di­rect a chill­ing story that could have been eas­ily swept un­der the rug,” said direc­tor Wil­liam Yong. “Why are peo­ple si­lenced? What makes us hu­man and what makes us aban­don our morals and plunge into cre­at­ing hell?”

More than 200,000 girls and women from across Asia were forced into sys­tem­atic sex­ual slav­ery by the Ja­panese Army for the du­ra­tion of the war and were re­ferred to as “com­fort women”. Writ­ten by Cana­dian play­wright Diana Tso, Com­fort ex­plores the mean­ing be­hind “com­fort” in wartime and cel­e­brates the re­silience of women in the midst of unimag­in­able cir­cum­stances.

The show fea­tures an orig­i­nal score by Con­stan­tine Car­avas­silis per­formed live on erhu (Chi­nese two-stringed fid­dle), ac­cor­dion, pi­ano and per­cus­sion.

“Com­fort is a col­lec­tive jour­ney by which the strug­gle of women in war is re­flected as a cry for peace in a world dom­i­nated by crises rooted in hu­man greed,” said Car­avas­silis. “We hope that through our art we will be able to ed­u­cate our au­di­ence by bring­ing aware­ness of a wide range of im­por­tant top­ics which in­clude gen­der equal­ity and the ir­re­versible dam­age on the hu­man psy­che that wars have al­ways brought.”

The cast fea­tures Va­nia Chan ( The Les­son of Da Ji), Phoebe Hu ( The Other Side of the World); Jen Hum ( Xing Dance Theatre), Vicki Kim ( The Auc­tion), Oliver Koom­satira ( Ba­nana Boys), Ti­mothy Ng ( Shang­hai Lil) and Jeff Yung ( Ba­nana Boys).

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­duc­ers, the Rape of Nan­jing and many of the atroc­i­ties of World War II in Asia have not been fully rec­og­nized; there has been no of­fi­cial apol­ogy or com­pen­sa­tion for the vic­tims, and the Ja­panese govern­ment con­tin­ues to deny re­spon­si­bil­ity for these crimes against hu­man­ity.

“Few com­fort women have sur­vived and even fewer have had the courage to share their story and be­gin the heal­ing process,” a press re­lease says. “Com­fort hon­ours their voices and demon­strates the power of art to heal and find change Com­fort will be per­formed at the Aki Stu­dio Theatre from Nov 24 to Dec 10.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

At a press con­fer­ence for on Nov 25 in Toronto, from left, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of AL­PHA Ed­u­ca­tion Flora Chong, Cana­dian play­wright Diana Tso and direc­tor Wil­liam Yong dis­cuss the up­com­ing pro­duc­tion.

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