Interview: Diana Tso discusses her new play, Comfort

I had the chance to ask writer Diana Tso a few questions about her play, Comfort, recently. The show is described as:
"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 the war rages on, their city of Nanjing is captured and
occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army, setting off the Nanjing Massacre where hundreds of thousands of citizens were brutally murdered. The lovers become separated when Dan Feng is captured and imprisoned in a comfort house in Shanghai."
Check out our Q&A below the cut!

— Can you talk a briefly about the Chinese and Korean "comfort women" for those who may not be familiar with that history?

During WWII Japan’s military sexually enslaved over 200,000 women and girls across Asia, including European women. Their stories continue to be silenced, as are the voices of many women in war, in our present day and in our own city. The ongoing struggle has brought survivors together in solidarity to fight for their rights as women, as human beings. Since 1991, survivors, educators, artists, social activists, and the UN have been advocating for the acknowledgement of “comfort women” issues and have demanded the Japanese government to take legal responsibility but the Japanese government continues to deny the coercion of women into military sexual slavery during WWII, despite the overwhelming testimonies of witnesses and survivors. It is an important voice globally as we must collectively advocate stopping violence against women and work towards healing and global peace.  

— Can you talk about why you wanted to write this play? 

I visited that House of Sharing in 2009 on a day of torrential rains. A Japanese man (who at that time was supporting the comfort women, giving tours to visitors at the museum on the same property and driving them to their weekly protests) helped me across the soaked sandbags, holding an umbrella over my head, to get to the house. When we entered the grandmas hugged us with warm towels! A beautiful day in my life journey! One of them asked if I was Chinese and I nodded and she happily burst into speaking Mandarin; she learned Mandarin when she was kidnapped from Korea & forced to be a comfort woman in China; she missed speaking Chinese. I wondered what if, after the war, she had kept in touch with or re-found one of the Chinese comfort women she was imprisoned with.  It was humbling to witness their testimonies and feel the energy of their resilience as I joined them in their protest in front of the Japanese Embassy. It's 2016, and they are still fighting! I wrote this play in solidarity with the comfort women’s fight to have their stories heard, remembered and honoured seven years later

— What do you hope audiences come away from this show with?

I hope audiences will stay to dialogue with us after show during our Q & A and join a bigger conversation to advocate to stop violence against women, to take the knowledge and story they have witnessed and be impassioned to share it and to advocate for an inclusive history and to remember and honor the heroines of war and our herstories. 

— What hopes do you have for an official apology? Do you see one as possible, and are you hoping to raise awareness about this issue?

The comfort women and those around the world who support them, all hope for an apology but one without integrity and action behind it would never be a true apology. A public apology must also include the teaching of this history in Japan’s school history books, literature, museums, etc., so that the truth about this history is acknowledged and remembered as well as activism to stop violence against women.

— Finally, anything you'd like to add?

We can be the change.

Comfort is playing at Aki Studio (585 Dundas St. E) 
November 24 – December 10, 2016. 
See website for details about show times. 

Photo by Dahlia Katz


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