This project was created in conjunction with students from Branksome Hall Asia over the period of a year. It involved a scratch version performed in front of trial audience in June 2018, a full performance in December 2018 after development from feedback from the June showing and a toured presentation version of the show to 9 venues in and around New York in April 2019.


‘RISE – The Story of a Woman’ is a new kind of musical; a multi-layered tale of female resistance and persistence that connects us with wonder to the past, and lifts us up with hope to the present.

Our musical interweaves the story of Kim Mandeok, a little-known Korean female hero, with the lives of young, modern women fighting for equality, freedom and safety. It is a tale of myth, magic, struggle, and real-life heroism, that transports the audience through time, and around the globe.

‘Rise’ turns the tables on our most common hero myths, casting an Asian woman from a small island of indomitable inhabitants in the Korea Strait as the locus of inspiration for our modern world, and her story as the inspirational solution to the struggles of all women everywhere. Kim Mandeok was born to the underclass of Jeju Island in the 1700’s but through strength and determination she rose through a series of social barriers, amassing a fortune and becoming Korea’s first female entrepreneur. When disaster struck the island in 1795 it was Mandeok’s heroic philanthropy that saved the population from famine.

Our international audiences (in Jeju and New York) gave our test performances standing ovations and described the experience as; ‘powerful’, ‘emotional’, ‘inspiring’, ‘uplifting’, and ‘important’. In New York we were asked more than once, ‘when is this coming to Broadway?’. We were also told over and over, ‘You have to get this out there, the world needs this story.’

The writer is an artist from the UK who has been inspired by the landscape, myths and history of Jeju while living on the island. In Kim Man Deok she found a figure whom she felt encapsulated the culture, community, history and mythology of the ‘strong’ women of Jeju island. And in whose life story she feels holds hope and inspiration for an international audience seeking solutions to contemporary struggles of equality and emancipation, both personal and political.  

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