HOMEby Julie Tamiko Manning
with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
Julie is an award winning theatre artist based in Montreal. She has worked across Canada for the last 20 years from the independent stage in Vancouver to the national stage in Ottawa. Selected theatre credits include Elena in Butcher (Centaur), Sister in Pig Girl (Imago), Isabella Bird/Win in Top Girls (Segal Centre), Emilia in Othello (Segal/Scapegoat Carnivale), Titania in A Midsummer Nights’ Dream (Repercussion Theatre), Doris Truscott in Innocence Lost (Centaur Theatre/NAC), Clarence in Richard III (Metachroma) and Nancy in Oliver! (NAC). Her passion project, The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, created, produced and performed with Matt Miwa, is a verbatim play that traces the history of Japanese Canadian internment during WW2. It premiered at the MAI in 2015, garnering 7 META nominations, winning Best Text, and was recently featured in Soulpepper’s inaugural Tiger Bamboo Festival in May. She is currently revisiting her role as Tokyo Rose in Tant Per Tant and Q-Ars Teatre’s Catalonian/English production of Visió Ardent/ Burning Vision in Barcelona. She is Associate Artistic Producer of Metachroma Theatre, a company mandated to encourage and normalize racial diversity on our stage.
“I am struggling with why I want to do this project…I thought I knew why, but now I I find myself on shaky ground. My original thought was to create a show about women who find themselves without a physical home: homeless. I came from a privileged home and a close-knit family. These things gave me emotional, financial, physical and mental security. When I first came to the big, scary city from the safety of the country, I could not understand how there were people without homes. It haunted me that there were people in my new community that somehow, didn’t have those safety nets around them. How did that happen to certain people? Why did I have those things and they did not? I probably gave a fair percentage of my student budget to the men on the street because I didn’t know what else to do and how else to solve it. When I think back to that time I don’t ever remember seeing women on the street. I wonder why? Were there none? Were they more timid? More in the shadows? Did I just not want to see them? I didn’t think that they existed.
When I first saw a woman on the street, I didn’t know how to feel. In my experience, women were the holders of family, community, children and culture. Where were their families? Why were they not taking care of them? I never realized until just now that at the time I immediately went to blame. And pity.
Recently I bought this woman a coffee. First I helped her across the street in the pouring rain, then I bought her a coffee and a pack of smokes and a muffin and I awkwardly sat with her at the Café Depot, afraid that if I left her, they’d kick her back out into the rain. I asked her where she was from, where she lived, what her name was…the answers were none to incoherent. She looked like she could be my auntie. If my auntie was alone in a wheel chair, incoherent in the rain, with her infected foot wrapped in some gross bandages, dirty hair and smelly body.
I asked her if she had a family. Children. She started to cry and I thought, “fuck, Julie, asshole, you’ve just opened a can of worms you are gonna walk away from- you’re gonna be late for work”…
She pointed upwards and cried that some were in heaven…then she said “and some won’t talk to me”.
She finished her coffee, we left the cafe, I lit her smoke and left her my umbrella. Her name was some kind of bird: Anna Sparrow…Jessica Partridge…I don’t remember. I’ve never seen her again and most likely won’t ever. And that bugs the shit out of me. That we briefly came into each other’s lives and then I went back to work and she went back into the rain.
So that’s my struggle: I want to reach out and touch people, change lives, dispel misunderstanding and fear, make the invisible visible, make things better…but what right do I have to go into a world I know nothing about and have no connection to? How can I dunk my lens into a community, get what I need from it then jump back out again when I want to, without being like a European explorer, claiming stories and lives for my own?”