The Tashme Project: A younger generation looks back
The Centaur presents the award-winning play about WW2 Japanese Canadian internment
By Patricia Dumais
On at the Centaur Theatre until November 24 is the The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, written and performed by Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, and directed by Mike Payette.
Crafted from over 70 hours of interviews with 20 Nisei (second generation Japanese Canadians) from Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal, the play traces their history through childhood, internment and post-WW2 resettlement east of the Rockies.
Now seniors in their 70s and 80s, the Nisei were children at the time of internment and their memories of adventure and play are presented in sharp contrast to the more common internment narratives of hardship and injustice.
The play draws its name from Tashme, the largest of the internment camps with over 2,600 people at its peak.
September 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Government’s formal apology and the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement, a historic landmark in the evolution of human rights in Canada.
They came to the house, the Mounties did, they asked for Ji-chan and they just took him away! And we didn’t even know where he went!
Moving from voice to voice and story to story with fluidity and constructed gracefulness, Manning and Miwa convincingly portray the voices of the interviewees as they seek a deep emotional and spiritual connection to the stories of their elders.
“We adore embodying our elders, but we really enjoy portraying the delicate balance of reticence and candour they express while being interviewed. There is a legacy of silence around internment, passed down through Japanese family and culture that prompted us to create the show. It is a silence we are still trying to understand, honour and articulate; curtailing our own speaking,” said Manning. “Though the Nisei were reluctant at first, what was promised to be half-hour interviews almost always extended to two-hour sessions. The stories we collected are touching, often humorous and inspire great admiration,” she added.
The set is minimal with a table and two chairs, and a small collection of accessories that include a radio that plays nostalgic tunes, a tea set, an old battered briefcase. One remarks the pile of paper origami cranes beneath the table. During the play, some of these are unfolded from which letters are read.
In the background is a multimedia ‘installation’ comprised of fractured, reflecting glass on which images of the past are projected, the design of the award-winning team of George Allister and Patrick Andrew Boivin (also sound designer/composer), with lighting designer David Perreault Ninacs completing the aesthetic.
All in all, a poignant performance that relives a dark part of Canada’s past while honouring the resilience of those who lived through it.
The Tashme Project: The Living Archives continues until November 24.
There is a post-show artist talks after each performance.
Patricia Dumais is co-editor and artistic director of WestmountMag.ca, and occasionally contributes articles. She began her career as a graphic designer and assistant artistic director on several Canadian feature films and documentaries. Patricia then worked in the field of communication and, in 1988, she co-founded Visionnaires branding design. firstname.lastname@example.org