Artists & Performers (Comfort)

 

Diana Tso, Playwright

 

“be the change you wish to see in the world”~ Mahatma Gandhi

“The only thing that is constant is change” ~Heraclitus

Diana graduated from the University of Toronto with Honors BA in English Literature & from Ecole Internationale de Théâtre de Jacques Lecoq, in Paris, France. She has worked with diverse theatres internationally for over 18 years. Her favorite theatre co-creations/ performances include: Dante’s Inferno and Chekhov Shorts, both with Theatre Smith-Gilmour, and by the way, Miss… with Urge/Theatre Direct, for which she shares the Dora Mavor Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance. Her Monkey Queen, Journey to the East, a one-woman performance creation inspired by the Monkey King stories in Wu Cheng-En’s 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West premiered at the 2010 Toronto Festival of Storytelling & continues to tour it. As an artist in schools her program guides youth empower their voices through the theatre creation www.arts.on.ca.  Currently she is performing in Chimerica at Manitoba Theatre Centre Feb 25-March 19 and Canadian Stage (Toronto) March 29-April 17 (Details).  photo by Denise Grant

William Yong, Director  www.zataomm.org

 

As the movement and music director for the previous production, Red Snow, William is honored and excited to be making his theatre directorial début with Comfort.  “I felt like I have been given a very important responsibility to direct a chilling story that could have been easily swept under a rug. Why are people silenced? What makes us human and what makes us abandon our morals and plunge into creating hell?”  His professional dance career spans more than twenty-one years since starting with Random Dance in 1994. He has performed in 75 cities within 15 countries. He has created over sixty-four dance and theatre works worldwide. William was trained at the London Contemporary Dance School in England and was admitted to the Master of Arts with distinction by University of Kent.  He’s received three Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, the Young Centre Performing Arts Multidisciplinary Dance Artists Award & K.M. Hunter Artist Award nominations. He was awarded the 2013 Canadian Dance Assembly’s ‘I love dance/J’aime la danse’ Award for Innovation. Upcoming:  Steer for World Stage premiering in May 2016 at the Fleck Dance Theatre.  photo by David Hou

Constantine Caravassilis, Music Composer 

 

“When I was first approached by Diana I immediately felt compelled by her immense talent in storytelling, and I have been equally amazed by the work of William Yong since being introduced to him. In my view, 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. We hope that through our art we will be able to educate our audience by bringing awareness on a wide range of important topics which include gender equality, the irreversible damages on the human psyche that wars have always brought as well the continued dialogue human rights and peacemaking.” Driven by emotion, beauty and spirituality, and inspired by the worlds of nature and literature, Constantine’s evocative music is intimately connected to his Hellenic roots. He is a prolific composer currently based in Toronto and his music has been performed in 25 countries. His has received awards including the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian music and the Harry Freedman Recording Award & he was composer-in-residence with institutions in Canada, Europe and South America.  photo by Rita Alexopoulos (Chroma Photography)

 

Vania Chan, actor/opera singer  www.vaniachan.com

I’m honoured to be a part of this project, and to have the opportunity of performing two extremely contrasting roles. I believe my characters set up the stage on which the lovers’ tale unfolds. The Chinese Opera Singer represents fantasy – the safe untainted setting in which idealistic romance can blossom. The Old Widow represents reality – the grim situation of a Comfort House in WWII. In her limited ways, the widow acts as a protector, and struggles to keep the lovers together.

Vania is a singer/actress with a Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, New York. She’s appeared with several performance companies in Canada and the United States. Her coloratura soprano voice can be heard on the recording of the opera “The Lesson of Da Ji” by Alice Ho, recently released by Centrediscs and the Canadian Music Centre.  photo by Helen Tansey

Phoebe Hu, actor

 

When I first read about the Comfort Women as a teenager back in Taiwan, it shocked me to the core – it made me sick to think about such horrific things actually happened, just about several decades ago, on the land I stand on now and other nearby lands, to girls about my age. And I remember thinking to myself how I wish I could do something about it.  About 15 years later in Canada, I am working with Red Snow Collective on an original piece dedicated to the comfort women. I believe this was no coincidence, and I am beyond grateful – for the opportunity to help tell a story that’s too hard to tell but needs to be told. Humble thanks to all the artists involved in this project – this would not be possible without all your incredible talent, dedication, and your beautiful wide-open hearts.  photo by Nick Seguin

Jen Hum, actor/dancer

 

Witnessing another individual’s experiences through art brings us all together as we relate to the emotions and feelings on display as ones that we all collectively share.  It is my challenge as an artist to maintain the integrity of the character I am playing while trying to draw out empathy from the audience.  Researching the historical backdrop of this play is a critical step in my task. I already had a connection to the subject of this project because I am a woman and because my mother was born into this catastrophic situation of World War 2 China.  After further investigation, I am in further disbelief that there were such atrocities and that no one knew about this.  This is deeply disturbing hence it is important to get this information out into the public consciousness.  It is important to acknowledge the past so that we can both learn from it and so we can validate the lives and experiences of those who suffered and were wronged.

A Toronto based independent dancer and performer Jen has a multifaceted background that has touched on all forms of dance and stage performance. Her next project will be with J9 Dance Projects as Part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival.  photo by David Ho

Vicki Kim, actor

 

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey

Korean in background, I had some insight into the Korean comfort women and their seclusion in world history.  In recent years, other women have also come forward to speak out, to make their stories known. I believe ‘Comfort’ is a play that will open people’s eyes and bring light and urgency in addressing these stories as part of not only our history, but the world’s.  I hope this play brings relief and freedom to the many women who suffered and who were denied voices throughout their life. I am so thrilled to be a part of this cast to tell this epic story by such creative and artistic means.  It has brought me a lot of joy and happiness to share and connect my history and passion for storytelling.  photo by Denise Grant

Oliver Koomsatira, actor  www.oliverkoomsatira.weebly.com

 

Systemic violence against women has existed for far too long and sadly still happens to this day. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.2 billion women experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. A staggering number to say the least. With this story, I wish to add my voice to a growing movement that places peace and equality at the foundation of all interactions.

Oliver performed over 1000 times in 180 theatre, film, dance, TV productions and commercials, reaching 450,000 audience members across Canada and The United States. Role include Dave Lowe in Factory Theatre’s Banana Boys as well as Upton Wong in fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre’s Ching Chong Chinaman.  photo by Benoit Vermette

Timothy Ng, actor

 

During the workshop of Comfort when I had to create the role of the Japanese Soldier, many questions went through my mind. Questions like how am I going to portray this character with truth? How will people react to my portrayal of the character? How can I portray this character without offending anybody? It was through hours of rehearsal and play to fully find the truth in the character. As I continue on this journey, I hope to develop the Japanese soldier into more of a three dimensional character with not just feelings for himself, but feelings for others and to make him someone who isn’t just hated but also felt for. I look forward to going on this journey with the rest of the cast.  photo by Denise Grant

Jeff Yung, actor

 

The notion of “comfort women” is sickening. The idea that sex slavery still happens all over the world is frightening, and I think it is so incredibly important to continue to raise awareness, and stir discussions on this global problem. What drew me to tell this specific story of tragedy was how it’s remembered in history. In learning about the atrocities that occurred in Japanese occupied China, I came to discover that there is a population of people who deny such horrors even happened, and others who didn’t know. Comfort is important because in a small way, we as artists can take up the responsibility of giving the people who suffered so much, and who’s place in history has been erased, and continue to give them a voice so they’re not forgotten.

Jeff is a Dora nominated actor, a stage/film combatant, and storyteller. Most recently he was in the Shakespeare BASH’d production of King John. Upcoming Spring 2016 Jeff will be touring Hana Hashimoto: Sixth Violin with Carousel Players.  photo by Vince Nguyen

Patty Chan, musician (erhu)  www.arcosound.com

As a second generation Chinese Canadian, I have always wanted to know more about my heritage, and I have explored it through learning about Chinese music and history. Working on Comfort has brought to life a part of the past that dealt with heart-breaking suffering, but also strength and perseverance. It impacted me greatly as I identified with the helplessness and fear of the victims. This story is important as it gives a voice to those that have been silenced for so long. Most importantly, the message of hope is clear, as is the need to look back and learn so that such cruelty and horror never be repeated again.

Chan is an erhu artist and author of “Playing Erhu – Bridging the Gap”.  photo by Emily Leung

Cathy Nosaty, musician (accordion)

 

I feel very thankful to be part of the company of COMFORT – it’s a story that must be told and heard to honour the victims and survivors and move us closer to a time where all people are treated with equity and respect.

As one of the instrumental musicians for COMFORT, my journey has included exploration into areas outside of my usual areas of expertise.  Patty Chan, Brandon Valdivia and myself were invited to participate in movement and vocal workshops with William Yong and Fides Krucker that were challenging and deeply satisfying.  The experience proved to create a unique bond between us that reflects in the way we play music together.  photo by Nagamo Katherine Fleitas at Peacephoto

Brandon Valdivia, musician (percussion)

 

It is an honour to be a part of Red Snow Collective’s production of Comfort. An important part of my artistic practice is to be involved in pieces which aim to empower, enlighten, educate and heal and Comfort does exactly that. After my involvement in Red Snow Collective’s Red Snow I saw how theatre can bring communities together through a collective dialogue about specific historical events and was amazed at what can be accomplished through this type of storytelling. I believe this production of Comfort will continue this process of healing the wounds caused by war.

Valdivia is a composer, percussionist, drummer and flautist. His active projects in Toronto include Not the Wind Not the Flag, Lido Pimienta, Above Top Secret and his solo project Mas Aya. He has collaborated with Clay and Paper Theatre, MT Space, Red Snow Collective and Aluna Theatre.  photo by Paz Ramirez

Dahlia Katz photographer for Comfort production   www.dahliakatz.com

Darren Bryant videographer for Comfort production   www.darrenbryantfilms.com

Louis Au, photographer for Comfort workshop  www.f11project.com

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.”  -  Edmund Burke

“Human Rights are rights that are based on the principle of respect for the individual. This should be a universal concept with the assumption that each person, regardless of race or gender, is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity.”   photo by Kathleen Finlay

 

 

Kim Snider, creator of the Comfort Teacher’s Guide    www.code.on.ca

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort is a play that resonates deeply with me as an educator: it addresses the missing voices and histories of women and people of colour, the need to commemorate and honour victims of violence and war, and the power of art to transform the world. It is my hope that the play affects its young audiences at both at the head and heart level, inspiring them to lead this change.”

Kim Snider teaches Drama, English, and Gender Studies at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts in Toronto and is the Past President of the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators (www.code.on.ca). In addition to teaching students, Kim has presented teacher-training workshops in the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. She is a recent graduate of the University of Warwick’s Masters in Drama and Theatre Education program. 

 

Aries Cheung, Website Manager   www.transmedia9.com

Performers: Vania Chan, Phoebe Hu, Jen Hum, Vicki Kim, Oliver Koomsatira, Timothy Ng, Jeff Yung
Musicians: Patty Chan, Cathy Nosaty, Brandon Valdivia
Creative Team: William Yong (director/set designer), Constantine Caravassilis (music composer), Rebecca Picherack (lighting designer), Erika Chong (costume designer), Dahlia Katz (photographer), Darren Bryant (videographer), AJ Laflamme (stage manager)