Atrocity in China Revisited in World Premiere, a nanking winter, in Toronto

News   Atrocity in China Revisited in World Premiere, a nanking winter, in Toronto
The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 is evoked in the Toronto world premiere of a nanking winter, launching Feb. 23 in a production by Nightwood Theatre in association with Cahoots Theatre Projects.

Governor General's Award-nominated playwright Marjorie Chan (China Doll at Nightwood) penned the new work about "a brazen young writer's campaign to ensure the past is not forgotten." Performances play to March 16 at Factory Theatre's Mainstage in Toronto.

The work transports "us back to one of the greatest massacres of the 20th century," according to Nightwood. "The place is Nanking — China's capital in 1937 — in the first weeks of invasion. In the midst of the rampage, a small group of unlikely heroes — including a nun and a German diplomat with ties to the Nazi party — band together to create a refuge from the unspeakable horror."

The infamous "Rape of Nanking" began in 1937 when the Japanese Imperial Army marched into China's capital city and proceeded to murder 300,000 out of 600,000 civilians while masses of Chinese women were systemically raped and murdered. The six-week period is considered one of the major atrocities of the World War II period.

The new play, the title of which the author prefers to put in lowercase letters, "combines two stories: the horrific 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking and the harassment and death of the passionate young woman who chronicled that invasion."

In Act One, Irene Wu (a character inspired by real life writer Iris Chang) is preparing for the launch of her expose on Nanking when her sister Audrey and her Japanese-American husband Kurt surprise her with a celebration in honor of the book. "When her publishers arrive and present her with compromise after compromise, Irene sees her support system fall apart and with it her remaining strength." In Act Two, the audience is thrust into the invasion of Nanking through the eyes of two young women, Little Mei and Big Mei, both fleeing the slaughter and currently taking refuge at the Ginling College for Women. Their struggle to survive amidst the chaos creates "an unbreakable bond resulting in a promise that will span the ages of time; a promise that will not be forgotten."

A nanking winter draws upon the book "The Rape of Nanking" by the iconic Iris Chang for inspiration. Chang was the passionate American author who first brought the atrocities of Nanking to public attention in North America through her book "even as she endured years of controversy." She committed suicide in 2004.

Winter 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of the Nanking massacre and the 10th anniversary of the publication of "The Rape of Nanking." The feature documentary "Nanking" has been playing in theatres in North America in recent months.

The cast of a nanking winter includes Leon Aureus as Kurt, Fukuyama and Soldier; Ella Chan as Audrey and Big Mei; Brooke Johnson as Julia and Anna; Grace Lynn Kung as Irene and Little Mei; and Stephen Russell as Frank and Niklas.

Ruth Madoc-Jones directs. Her creative team includes set and costume designer Camellia Koo, lighting designer Renée Brode, composer and sound designer Rick Hyslop.

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