THE ORIGIN OF 99 WOMEN

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crédit photos Liz Hingley

The piece 99 women is born from a poem written at the end of 2012. It was entitled Lives and Deaths of 99 ordinary women. At that time I did not know very well what woman I could be because my little identity had been well eroded by the great Chinese wheel.

How to be a woman? My poem featured a long procession of jostling women and shadows to answer the question. They entered the bright square of the poem and summarized their lives with one sentence as concise as a police record. Yet these 99 fragments of existence did not say everything about their lives and the 99 testimonials did bring any conclusion to the topic of femininity. The poem, more lucid than I was answered: the question of “how to be a woman” would remain open.

In Fall 2014, I turned my matrix-poem into a play. I wanted to make these women from inside take a bit of fresh air, walk and talk. I evicted some long lasting tenants. They were repeating themselves. I opened the door to other women more frivolous, more diverse and colder too.

The play was written between October 2014 and February 2015 and while I was writing it, I wondered how I was going to play it. Only me? With a few actresses? Why not 99? To find 99 women in Shanghai was not impossible. This city gives many women the opportunity to express and reinvent themselves. Former attachments and identifications are loosened and can be redrawn more freely. The Shanghai women would understand.

Late October, I started my casting on the streets. The weather was mellow and gentle. Let’s face it, I “hooked girls” like a pimp. The brief was short: “I wrote a play. This is somewhat a special project…. with 99 actresses on stage. “In general, the answer came quickly: I am in, they said.

At Christmas, I already received 40 pledges; the project then took a different scale. Artists joined me: photographer Liz Hingley, choreographer Amy Chan, composer Jordan Kostov and trombonist Mindy Ruskovitch; and the Association of Francophone women in Shanghai La Ruche (The Hive) decided to support the project. In February 2015, I finished writing the play and prepared the master plan of the project. The adventure of the 99 women could begin.

Geneviève Flaven

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