THE TASHME PROJECT: THE LIVING ARCHIVES Comes to Centaur Theatre
The Tashme Project: The Living Archives is an award-winning verbatim theatre piece that has been crafted from over 70 hours of interviews with 20 Nisei (second generation Japanese Canadians) from Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal. Show creators /performers Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa are proud to be part of Centaur Theatre's Brave New Looks from Nov. 15-24, kicking off the national tour of this important show about the WW2 internment of Japanese Canadians. September 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. The play is an embodiment of Nisei character, language, spirit and story. There will be post show artist talks after each performance.
The Tashme Project: The Living Archives traces the Nisei's history through childhood, internment and post-WW2 resettlement east of the Rockies. Now seniors, the Nisei were children at the time of internment and their memories of adventure and play are presented in sharp relief to the more common internment narratives of hardship and injustice. Tashme was the largest of the internment camps, with over 2,600 people at its peak. Moving from voice to voice and story to story with fluidity and constructed gracefulness, Manning and Miwa portray the voices of the interviewees as they seek a deep emotional and spiritual connection to the stories of their elders.
Manning and Miwa are passionately committed to vitalizing Japanese Canadian cultural pride. They have always loved performing The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, "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 Tashme Project: The Living Archives is the story of a younger generation looking back. It is through this lens that audiences access both the particular history as well as a broader perspective on the Canadian immigrant experience.
From director Mike Payette: "Julie and Matt have intricately woven parts of a sordid history with present urgency. They, like so many of us, are on a quest to not only discover what is rooted within them, but also trying to define how they can move forward and exist alongside the backdrop of trauma, untold stories, and dispersal. However, above all, this play is a bridge between generations; a visceral and beautiful theatrical essay on what it means to both honour and question the past in order to find peace now."
As a fourth generation Japanese Canadian, Miwa is part of the larger nationwide movement to address the legacy of internment in the Japanese Canadian community and beyond. Miwa recognizes it is still an issue today, "After the recent election, this play is incredibly relevant as it lays out the human cost of systemic racism in government policy decisions. The internment happened to our grandparents and great grandparents, but its effects have impacted our generation. The suffering of cultural integration and negotiation of heritage are processes that carry on way down the line and do not become less intense or traumatic with each generation." For Japanese Canadians, questions of cultural identity are coming into serious play with a tremendous loss of language and an intermarriage rate in the 90th percentile, the highest of any visible minority group in Canada.
The story of internment is one that must be retold and retold. Along with multiple readings and workshop productions, The Tashme Project: The Living Archives has evolved since its original MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) mainstage production. Significant changes have been made to its design, direction, text and performance; delving deeper into the nature of memory as well as the cost of 'remembering' that is so pervasive in the various testimonies. After 3 years of redevelopment, the company is excited to showcase it again in Montreal, at Centaur Theatre. The play will be published this year as part of a Playwrights' Canada Press anthology on immigration and they are also looking to translate the play into French. Many pockets of community activism/vitalization are happening all across the country. The show is part of this wave, along with the ironically named Sunshine Valley Tashme Museum on the Tashme site near Hope BC, and the Tashme Historical Project website offering in-depth information about what it was like living there from 1942-46.
Multimedia highlights the exploration of the nature of memory and nostalgia. The award-winning creative team's design, led by set/costume designers James Lavoie's textured 'installation' comprised of fractured, reflecting glass, will be further enhanced by video design team George Allister and Patrick Andrew Boivin (also sound designer/composer), with lighting designer David Perreault Ninacs completing the esthetic. The stage manager is Isabel Quintero Faia.