& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Comfort - a play by Diana Tso

Diana Tso is a performer, playwright, poet, storyteller & artist in education. She’s a graduate of the University of Toronto in English Literature & of Ecole Internationale de Theatre de Jacques Lecoq in France.  She’s worked with diverse theatres internationally for 18 years. As artistic director of www.redsnowcollective.ca her theatre vision merges east & west storytelling art forms through music, movement & text.  

Upcoming: as a playwright, her the production of her new play, Comfort, premieres 2016; as an actor, she’ll be performing in Chimerica, directed by Chris Abraham at the Royal Manitoba Centre & at Canadian Stage in their 2016/2017 seasons.  Diana is grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council & Toronto Arts Council for supporting her playwriting, developments & productions.

Diana Tso’s Comfort, a new drama play, honoring the resilience of women in war and inspired by the comfort women of WWII in Asia, will have a free public reading this Thursday August 20th at OISE auditorium of University of Toronto @ 7pm at 252 Bloor St. West (by St. George subway).

It is directed by William Yong with music composed by Constantine Caravassilis.  This event is part of ALPHA Education’s one-week “Remembering Resilience: History + Art = Peace" series, commemorating of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.  

Comfort is the love story of two youths from Nanjing, brought together through their passion for the music of the opera, “Butterfly Lovers”.  Separated by their differences in social classes, they elope to Shanghai to stay together, only to be separated again by the horrors of a comfort house where they survive until the end of the war through the power of love and the transformative power of music.

Comfort is a sequel to Diana’s other drama play, Red Snow, inspired by the survivors of the Rape of Nanking, which was produced in 2012 with critical acclaim in Toronto and continued on its international premiere in China at the ACT Shanghai International Contemporary Theatre Festival in that same year. 

Diana Tso
Diana discovered this part of WWII history while watching a documentary film by Nancy Tong, “In the Name of the Emperor” in 1997.  It awakened her to the lopsided manner in which history is taught in Canada. For someone who was raised in Canada and went to school here, she learnt about World War II; “but it was all European history; the Asian history and stories of the ‘World War’ were excluded.”

As an artist, whose stage is her public platform to speak creatively, it was imperative for her to write Red Snow to give voice to a forgotten holocaust in WWII.  Diana struggled with her research on this subject because there was no history written about it and when she approached people in the community they did not want to dig up and relive the horrors of the past.

However, her research was furthered in that same year when she met Iris Chang who was touring across Canada launching the first North American book about this history, The Rape Nanking, the forgotten holocaust of World War Two.  Reading Chang’s account of the harrowing experiences of Chinese women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese army (the women were euphemistically termed comfort women), further ignited Diana to write Red Snow – that encapsulates the tragedy of what happened in Nanking, as experienced across three generations in a family. 

It is about one Canadian woman’s recurring nightmare, which drives her on a quest to dig through her family’s buried history in China. When she meets a Japanese man, she must confront historical forces that threaten her own personal journey towards love.  The play brings the message of collective healing and global peace.

In 2007 while sitting in the dentist office Diana came across a magazine with an article about ALPHA (Association for Preserving & Learning the History of WWII in Asia).  She contacted the executive director, Flora Chong and gave her a copy of Red Snow.  Ms. Chong was deeply moved by Diana’s play and helped her arrange contacts in Nanjing to interview a couple of survivors in 2008.  Then in the following year Diana participated in ALPHA’s Peace and Reconciliation for educators to tour China and Korean to meet the survivors of WWII and to see the historical sites while learning more about the WWII in Asia.  

This was a life-changing experience that heightened Diana’s writing and continues to do so in her current play, Comfort.

Diana’s further research on the comfort women was furthered by the recent publication of a compilation of 12 survivors’ testimonies, which were enslaved as comfort women.  Chinese Comfort Women – Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves, edited by Peipei Qui with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei, and was published in 2013 by the University of British Columbia press.

The book describes the experiences in the Japanese military “comfort stations” and their continued suffering after the war. These women are: Chen Yabian, Huang Youliang, Lei Guiying, Li Lianchun, Lin Yajin, Lu Xiuzhen, Tan Yuhua, Yin Yulin, Yuan Zhulin, Wan Aihua, Zhou Fenying, and Zhu Qiaomei.  This book will be available for purchase at the public reading of Comfort on August 20, OISE U of T, 252 Bloor St. W auditorium.

Find out more at www.alphaeducation.org

Remembering Resilience part of the "History + Art = Peace" series of events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII

Other “Comfort” related events in the peace celebrations:

Saturday August 15 @ 7pm

“Remembering Resilience Commemorative Ceremony”

Join us for a candle light vigil and an evening of music, performance art, film, and special guest speakers.  This commemorative ceremony is held to remember the courage and strength of those that suffered during the Asia-Pacific War. Performances include a song from Diana Tso' play, "Comfort” (music composed by Constantine Caravassilis; musicians: Patty Chan -erhu/Chinese violin, Marjolaine Fournier- double bass, Phoebe Hu-Chinese flute) and a performance piece showcasing Comfort's costume designer, Erika Chong’s 2015 collection, inspired by the comfort women.

School of Management, Theatre Hall - TRS1-067  @ 55 Dundas Street West
This event is free and is co-sponsored by Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.  Seats are limited!   Please RSVP here: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/remembering-resilience-commemorative-ceremony-for-the-70th-anniversary-of-the-end-of-wwii-tickets-16905306226

Friday August 21 @ 1:15pm, 3:15pm & 5:15pm

Birds of a Feather Storytelling Event with Diana Tso, Rubena Sinha & other storytellers.  Join us at the gazebo in Mel Lastman Square 5100 Yonge (at North York Centre subway stop) We welcome the community to share their stories of peace & reconciliation, remembrance & love.

The post below is Lei Guiying’s narrative of her life in the comfort station.

No comments:

Post a Comment