More Students Responding to War (inspired by HONEY BROWN EYES)

Two more fascinating pieces from the students of the University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley and Merced’s Washington Internship Programs. On November 23, 2008 at Theater J Artistic Director’s Round Table Series, we presented a session called “Adapting War Stories” with eleven 4 Minute Plays by students inspired by Stefanie Zadravec’s HONEY BROWN EYES.

Here are the two additional works:

The Comfort Woman
by Patricia Kim

This short play, inspired by Honey Brown Eyes, examines the subject of rape and abuse of women during times of war. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of women from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Japanese-occupied territories were forced into sexual slavery to service Japanese soldiers. Many of these women remained silent after the end of the war, and have begun to speak up only in recent years through documentaries and protests against the Japanese government. The following monologue gives us a tiny peak into what a Korean comfort woman may have experienced:

What? You want to interview me? What for? I’m just an old woman…
What about my story? Who sent you? A documentary? Ha!…
What are you going around digging up the shameful past for?
I’m just an old woman… let me be.

You want to correct the past eh?…
Well I can’t promise you too much. I’ve put aside those memories…those years don’t exist to me anymore…

(sigh, long pause…) Where do I begin…

My older sister left to the Japanese military camps a month into the war. She went because they said she’d cook for them, and she could bring us the leftovers. There were six of us. My dad, all he did was play his violin in the corner of our one room house, smoking away, stuck in his old ways when he used to play for the Japanese officials at their clubs. My mom hated him. She did the laundry at the neighborhood rich man’s house to feed us – the littlest was five.

So, my sister left. She brought us leftovers a few times the first month, but every time she came, she never stayed long, or answered any of our questions. She just looked so tired. My mom never spoke with her when she came home, but would just look away. Then she would cry all night after my sister left, cursing my dad. The last time my sister came by that month, she had a hollow look in her face. Her eyes seemed grey and lifeless, and her body was limp. We heard a few months later from a neighbor who sold grain to the Japanese base that she had hung herself at the camp. My mother cursed the Japanese, and my dad just played the violin…and the war continued.

About a year later, in 1944, one of my aunts saw an ad in the paper for a job at the Japanese artillery factory. The ad promised decent wages, and room and board. I know, it was a bit fishy – the factory only wanted young women. But I was desperate to get out of our one-room house and to escape the constant bickering between my parents. And I figured my mom would have one less mouth to feed if I left. So even though I was suspicious, and I hated the Japanese, I responded to the ad.

That week, a man in a fancy suit came by my house. He told me the factory wanted me and that he would take me to tour the facilities. So I went along. The factory was huge! Rows of women in neat white uniforms stood at the assembly line, busily working. That day, I signed a two year contract and returned home with hope that I could now start my own life, and even help my family along the way.

Five days passed. I got up before the sun rose and left for the factory. When I got there, I saw a group of about 50 other girls huddled in circles. Soon, the man in the fancy suit showed up and told us all to get in the trucks parked out front. We all quietly filed in the trucks, expecting a short ride. But we drove for a few hours, and finally pulled up to a harbor. We were ordered to get out and board a ship. We were all terrified… where were they taking us? Some of the girls tried to run away, but the guards were quick and beat those in front of us who wouldn’t cooperate.

We were at sea for I don’t know how long…I lost track after awhile. When we finally got off the boat I just saw a mass of dark skinny people running around the harbor. I had never seen anyone so dark. Someone told me we were in the Philippines. We were put on trucks again and dropped off at a Japanese military base. I was almost glad to see the Japanese soldiers after driving for miles and only seeing dark, unrecognizable faces.

That night, we were all lined up to get examined by some doctor. After a humiliating exam, I was shoved into small rooms, with nothing but a filthy mat on the floor. All kinds of thoughts raced through my head. Were the rumors true? Is this what happened to my sister?
Then a soldier came in and beat me and kicked me and cursed at me…and then… (long pause)

Are you here to torture me?
I can’t go on anymore…
I’m just an old woman. Leave me be.

* * *

The American Way of War:
by William Leech and Brett Vogel
An Adaptation from an Interview
All credit to Eugene Jarecki.

The America South, decades from present time.

The short piece that we have put together is an adaptation of an interview we found in the novel The American Way of War written by Eugene Jarecki. The interview was with the two U.S fighter pilots who dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War early in the morning of March 19th 2003. In the interview, one of the pilots mentioned how he wasn’t sure how he was going to explain his involvement in the war to his grand kids – so we took that premise and ran with it. As the scene continues on it becomes apparent that the grandfather is not quite sure whether what he did was right or wrong, but that he was just a just a soldier doing his duty. Just as war has given the characters in Honey Brown Eyes a twisted idea of what is ethically right and wrong, so too does or piece beg the question of whether or not the U.S decision to invade Iraq was done with the best intentions in mind.

(Child pulls out medal)
Grandpa, I’ve been searching through the attic, and I found this. What is it? Looks like a medal. Is it yours?

Ahh yes. This old thing… it’s from a long time ago. I was a solider once, you know.

Huh, Really? When?……. How comes I don’t know ‘bout this?

The Iraq War…… Your father never told you

No, ….. He never told me anything about it. What did you do?
( Grandfather rips medal from child’s hands)

I was a pilot. …..I….
I look back on it now…
…. It’s kind of like a dream. They always talk about D-day and Iwo Jima, but they never mention March 19th 2003.

No, no they don’t. What happened then?

It’s one for the history books – my personal history books. How many times in a lifetime does an individual gets the opportunity to take an opening shot in a conflict that will liberate a people?

Liberating the people? The Iraq war Grandpa, my teacher and the history book don’t mention that at all……I thought it was about fighting terrorism.
(takes medal back from Grandfather)

Well course it was, at first. (Takes his medal back) But that was Afghanistan, Quit getting your brain all scrambled, I’m talking about Iraq.

Oh, Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction right. I saw me a PBS documentary on it.

Yeah we had to take nuclear weapons out of the hands of the enemy

But, I thought we didn’t actually find anything. Didn’t the Government just lie to everyone in order to have an excuse to invade a country.

yur right we didn’t find any WMDs in Iraq but that’s only because the insurgents moved them into Iran.

Really? How’d they do that without us noticing?

Oh I don’t know, I never really asked questions I just did what my superior officers told me.

Alright, well what was it again that happened on March 19th? Tell me about it.

the sun, the moon, the stars…..if I’d had been anywhere else in the world at the time, flying around on a training mission, I’d have said, “this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

…but then I realized where I was sitting. Over enemy territory, about to unleash a couple of two-thousand-pound bombs into a city. So it was that one moment then back to work

We really didn’t know who was there and who was gonna take the blow of what we were about to do

I remember thinking to myself – “if we do our job today, this whole thing might be over tomorrow”

Are you alright Grandpa? You’re
getting all worked up.

I mean, we train to hit our intended target and minimize collateral damage to everything else around that. You can’t eliminate the risk a hundred percent of the time, and we realize that.

So you killed some innocent people? Wow, that’s crazy. Doesn’t that wear on you?

Listen, Being a military officer an all…my job is to support my president and the mission that he gave me.
It’s not our decision to make. We just do what we’re told.

Sure, you sit down and talk with your kids. And you get some tough questions. You get asked by your grandson, ‘did you go out and try to kill Saddam Hussein?’ and that’s difficult to say to a ‘lil kid. But ….

Grandpa! (Getting his grandfather attention back) Well, what happened next?

…when we saw him captured on TV, sure, one side of me said, ‘you know, I guess we didn’t get him…” but, in the end…… in the end, we got him.