Off-Broadway Musical Tackles WWII Sex Slavery

      January 28, 2015 11:10

      Musical director Kim Hyun-jun says the hardest thing about putting on a stage performance about the suffering of women forced into sexual slavery in World War II is to calm the actresses, who often break down in tears while reading the script.

      "A lot of foreign actresses end up being unable to control their emotions and we have to stop rehearsing," Kim said.

      "It's been 70 years since World War II ended, but this just shows the strong emotions their suffering still elicits in everyone."

      There are no crying scenes in the script Kim co-wrote with U.S. playwrights. "I didn't want it to be a tearjerker. I wanted to convey the truth objectively and leave it up to the audience to interpret on their own," he said.

      The musical "Comfort Women," after the Japanese euphemism for the victims, will be performed at St. Clements Theater in New York for two weeks starting July 3.

      St. Clements is the biggest off-Broadway theater in New York City.

      It has a cast of 46, including seven of Japanese descent. All of the performers are Asian Americans, except for one who plays the role of a Dutch sex slave.

      A total of 688 people showed up for auditions last year.

      Most of the performers said they were not aware of the existence of sex slaves, but they became experts in the subject as they prepared for their roles.

      Kim, who graduated from high school in Seoul and is a senior at New York City College majoring in drama, is focusing on the upcoming musical while postponing his graduation. He has already directed around a dozen musicals and plays for his school projects, but this is his first off-Broadway production.

      "I saw Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempting to deny Japan's responsibilities for forcing women into sexual slavery since he came into office in late 2012 and wanted to show U.S. audiences the truth in the form of a musical," he says.

      He spent two years polishing up the script. The US$50,000 used to produce the musical has been provided by 16 American sponsors.

      Kim's dream is to stage "Comfort Women" on Broadway. "I want to make this into a musical of the best kind like "Lion King" or "Miss Saigon" by attracting more investors and improving the staging and special effects," he said.

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