Monologues of Women, a new theater production by creative Christine Zhao, will hit the stage in Seattle on the third and fourth weekends of September 2022.
What started as a collaborative project and a six-week online workshop involving actors, dancers, and designers will conclude as a full-fledged performance piece. To put on a successful production, Zhao first crowdsourced ideas from theater devisers in China, Seattle, New York, and London, and cast six Asian actresses in Seattle.
A meditation on the pressing problems faced by women who grew up in Chinese society, Monologues of Women shines the spotlight on the suppressed. Influenced by romcoms, social media, and patriarchal traditions, many women in China feel unable to voice their true thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, they must conform to often unattainable beauty standards.
The theatrical piece uses a blend of modern dance and acting sequences to touch on topics such as sexual harassment and institutional problems.
Incensed by a viral video of a woman chained up in rural China that blew up the internet in February of this year, Zhao was moved to start her theater program to lend a voice to vulnerable women, The controversial case sparked an outcry for justice and inspired a slave of artists to do the same.
According to the local government, the woman in the disturbing footage originally comes from Southwest China’s Yunnan province and has mental health issues. She disappeared from her hometown sometime in the 1990s and was reportedly sold as a bride twice by a trafficker.
Hailing from Anhui province, a two-hour drive from the chained woman’s location, Zhao was especially saddened by the news. It concerned her that her mother’s hometown was even closer.
In more recent months, a spat of other attacks on women in China — including a drink-spiking incident in Shanghai and a vicious public beating in Tangshan — have also outraged the public, making Monologues of Women‘s message is more relevant and important.
For Zhao, the process of putting her show together has proven incredibly therapeutic. Participants of her online workshops, who hail from different cultural backgrounds and go by different gender identities, are grateful for the chance to share their own experiences.
During one workshop practice, each participant shared one thing that they were forced to believe about their genders; the rest of the group then disproved this notion.
Zhao hopes that Monologues of Women has the means to help its cast and all those involved, including the audience, heal from generational trauma. If executed well, the work should also inspire everyone to reflect on their own lives, and create a more inclusive environment.
The project is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. Donors will enjoy different perks — think social media shoutouts, copies of the original soundtrack, digital copies of the show, or behind-the-scenes access — depending on their selected pledge packages.
All images courtesy of Christine Zhao