Don't miss: Comfort Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Don't miss: Comfort

Jenna Simeonov

Inspired by the tragic history of “comfort women” in Japan during World War II, Diana Tso’s play Comfort is coming to Toronto’s Aki Studio, Daniels Spectrum, November 26 to December 10. The comfort women were forced into sexual slavery, and the atrocities have only recently come to light, after the discovery of official documents from the archives of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in 1946.

Tso’s play tells a story of true love among horrific societal conditions, and makes use of the Chinese opera, The Butterfly Lovers. We spoke with Tso about her work, and how Comfort adds to the growing canon of literature that gives voice to this part of 20th-century history.

Tickets start at $15, and you can find full details right here.

How common is the subject of “comfort women” in contemporary art and theatre?

“Comfort women” is not a common subject in contemporary art and theatre.

What kind of message does Comfort hold?

Comfort’s message is for us to share, voice, remember and honour the stories of women and heroines and advocate for an inclusive history where women names are memorialized in literature, monuments, books, and names of buildings as they hold up half the sky. The story advocates stopping violence against women.

How have you involved opera and music into your play?

The Chinese opera and music of The Butterfly Lovers, is the cultural character in the play, from which the heroine and hero fall in love and through which they survive the atrocities of war. The opera’s themes such as gender equality, love, and redemption echo those in the contemporary story of the young lovers’ dreams and hopes in 1930s China and how their love stands up against war.

What sort of progress has been made with recognition of the atrocities in Nanjing?

Slowly, different forms of voicing these atrocities through literature and the arts have made the public more aware of this forgotten and silenced history, such as Peipei Qiu’s Chinese Comfort Women, testimonies from imperial Japan’s sex slaves and Tamaki Matsuoka’s Torn Memories of Nanking, testimonies of Japanese war veterans and Chinese survivors of the Nanjing Massacre and Tiffany Hsiung’s documentary film, The Apology.

Is there any true basis for the story of Comfort?

Yes, Comfort is inspired by the testimonies of comfort women and soldiers of World War II in Asia.

What do you hope Canadian audiences will take away from your work?

I hope audiences will stay to dialogue with us after show during our Q&A, to begin 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.


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