Friday, February 1, 2019


A s a general rule, stories of internment have not been passed down and remain largely untold in Japanese Canadian families. When we nervously sat down in formal interview and eventually with our elders (family members, friends of family and eventually, total strangers), we were asking for and hearing these stories for the first time; our life-long curiosities were finally being satisfied and the murky picture of our families' past - our legacy - was finally being filled out.

Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa
Co-Creators of The Tashme Project: The Living Archives

The physical presence of Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa onstage is a testament to the ways in which skilled performers can bring stories and characters to life that defy traditional modes of 'realistic' representation, and in doing so, add an intense and moving element to the reality of marginalized bodies throughout Canada's extremely conflicted history.

On opening night one audience member shared the concept of body memory, and spoke of the characteristics they had seen portrayed that evening becoming poignant connections to people in his own life. Watching the performers gave me a similar feeling  - yet marked by both emotional connection and a kind of absorbing theatrically-based detachment - a paradoxical combination that can have the effect of drawing spectators further into the narrative through the use of very precise, and articulate physical representation.

The almost puppet like movement of Matt Miwa, executed in a way that appeared simultaneously natural and stylized - infusing his physicality with a sense of expressive, staccato rhythm in his upper body, and a graceful movement below. Julie Tamiko Manning utilized a powerful embodied presence that coupled with Miwa effectively when they moved chairs across the stage with a powerful uniformity, punctuating a narrative marked by isolation, community, and the recovery of complex memories inscribed upon the body from one generation to the next.

Japanese internment camps occurred from 1941 until 1949. Less than seventy years ago peoples lives were uprooted, destroyed. This destruction is addressed in such a complex and vivid way by the two performers involved.

It is our intention as Sansei and Yonsei (3rd and 4th generation) Japanese Canadians to connect younger generations more deeply to their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and ignite in them a desire to rediscover their Japanese-ness. We wish to help invigorate our disappearing Japanese Canadian community and performang the Tashme Project across Canada is our form of community activism.
program note by co-creators

This kind of community activism, in its current form at Factory Theatre, is at times humour filled, bittersweet, incredibly moving, tragic, and an important and timely event in Canadian Theatre. Tamiko Manning's and Miwa's commitment to recovering the words and memories of their respective families gives the tragic spectacle of internment camps faces, names, and physical spaces for spectators to name and to locate - aided by the use of haunting projections that the performers become integrated within, adding layers of generational depiction  to the overall narrative.

Mike Payette's direction (original direction by Mieko Ouchi) gives the overall stage picture a broad, integrated focus, allowing the performers to seamlessly move apart and come together at various moments, representing both harmony and conflict as they navigate a troubled, yet powerfully experienced past, through memory and image.

Through Tashme, we want to address the lack of intergenerational dialogue among Japanese Canadians and the cultural schism that exists between the generations interned and the generations who came after ... [the] displacement, incarceration and deportation of the Japanese Canadian community from British Columbia's West Coast during the Second World War by the Canadian government was meant to erase our community.
co-creators program note

At one point during the performance a sense of bittersweet hopefulness is expressed when an embodied character speaks of the potentially positive effects that came from internment - expressing the idea that Japanese communities may have never left the west coast, and moved into other parts of the country, had they not been forced to by the oppressive strategies projected upon them by the Canadian government. This is a very moving and painful performative moment to experience as the tragic displacement and incarceration of so many people manifests itself through complicated memory and emotion. The sentiment cannot be easily critiqued/unpacked, as it comes from the memory of an actual survivor, and garners heartfelt respect and response. And yet, Japanese internment never should have occurred in Canada, and this "cultural schism" the co-creators speak of must be acknowledged, addressed, and resisted as the continued marginalization and isolation of diverse elements of Canadian culture continues to exist within contemporary Canadian society.

In 2019, we see the success of that program: the loss of culture, language and identity across our community. By disseminating the oral history of our elders, we are fighting its potential disappearance and rebuilding a sense of Japanese Canadian identity and pride.

co-creators program note

The Tashme Project is an incredibly powerful piece of theatre as it brings 'living archives' to life onstage and urges audiences to take part in the cultural and community activism that the creators so superbly displayed in the performances.


No comments:

Post a Comment