Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A different path for women on the stage

A different path for women on the stage

Actors portray Neary (left) and her grandmother (right) in the premiere of I am a Daugther at Meta House last week.
Actors portray Neary (left) and her grandmother (right) in the premiere of I am a Daugther at Meta House last week. Photo supplied

A different path for women on the stage

Neary has just passed her grade-12 exams with a “C”, enough to escape her rural hometown and pursue a university education in Phnom Penh – just like her older brother, though her grandmother wants her to marry the rich rice-mill owner nearly twice her age.

This is the set-up for I Am a Daughter, a play that premiered last Friday at Meta House and is set to tour the Kingdom’s secondary schools starting next year. Written by former television news presenter-turned-writer Kim Dyna, 26, the play depicts realistic scenarios for women, in which they find a perhaps idealistic solution. It was funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and produced through the Turtle Club, a project exploring social issues through theatre.

“The topic is girl empowerment. I want to encourage women not to drop their studies,” she says. In part Dyna says the play draws from her own experience. “My family wanted me to marry the rich man,” she says, adding that Neary’s dilemma was also pieced together from interviews she conducted with female Cambodian high school students.

The crux of the drama is captured by the debate between Neary and her grandmother. Neary points to the unhappy family-arranged marriages of her own mother and her friend Soriya – who happened to have married the brother of the rice mill owner at the age of 16.

“It was to show how a girl can have a voice in the family,” Dyna explains.

Adding a bit of comic relief to the performance, Neary’s grandmother and friend Soriya are convincingly interpreted by male performer Ney Sovannarith, while Soriya’s abusive husband is played by female performer Nim Reaksmey, who also plays the protagonist Neary.

The 45-minute play, constructed over 10 scenes, ultimately has a hopeful and happy ending – though it’s not one without compromise. Both Neary and rice mill owner Oudom get what they want, a choice Dyna says was made to keep the play grounded in reality, while also providing a young audience with both female and male “role model” characters.

“If women have problems, why do they need to struggle by themselves? What about men?” Dyna wonders.

“If they have a girlfriend they should support her [with her life goals],” she says. This thought process guided her construction of Oudom who, despite wanting to marry a teenage girl half his age, turns out to be “reasonable”.

Young girls watching the play, Dyna hopes, will come away committed to their aspirations, not to patriarchal pressure.

“My advice to young women is please stay hopeful,” she says.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • EDC tackles power shortfall

    Electrcite Du Cambodge (EDC) on Monday issued a statement updating the public on its efforts to tackle insufficient electricity supplies during the ongoing dry season. Reductions in electricity prices have resulted in a steady increase in consumers in the Kingdom, while local and international investors

  • African swine fever spreads to VN-Cambodia border

    African swine fever has spread to parts of Vietnam that border Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official said on Friday. Tan Phannara, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general, told a Phnom Penh workshop that