The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, co-created by Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, directed by Mieko Ouchi, delves into a largely undiscussed part of Canada’s history; the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.
“Around 27,000 Japanese-Canadians were rounded up after Pearl Harbor, dispossessed, disenfranchised and relocated away from the coast, either to ghost
towns or to a hastily built network of camps.”
–Jim Burke, The Gazette
I sat down with co-creator, Julie Tamiko Manning, to learn about the project and her deeply rooted connection to this history.
“A lot of Japanese families went to Farnam (Eastern Townships) where I grew up, because there was a military base there and they continued having to register with the RCMP. The original house, which my uncle still lives, was an army barack, and they moved the army barracks off of the military base, and that is where all of the Japanese people lived.” – Julie Tamiko manning
Both she and Miwa are decedents of Japanese-Canadians interned in one of the biggest internment camps, Tashme, in British Columbia. This shared history puts both in a perfect position to recount the stories of those who experienced the internment first hand. Julie and Matt travelled across Canada and gathered over 70 hours of interviews from family members and acquaintances of the Nisei generation (second generation Japanese-Canadians). Then, in verbatim theatre style, shaped them into a performance. The Tashme Project: The Living Archives playing from the 7th – 17th at the MAI.
Here, Matt and Julie play three kinds of characters. She says,
“There are three different spaces at this moment. There is the world of Matt and Julie and who we are now. And our reflections on our legacy. And our role in this process. And then there is us as the interviewers, so in the moment, very often, when I or Matt is embodying the Nisei, the other is the interviewer. And then we are also playing the interviewees. So it is pretty complex, but simple in its complexity, if that makes sense.
Reflecting on the process, she says, “We didn’t know what we wanted to do. It was such a large, looming project in our heads, the natural thing to do was to start talking to people. There is this silence in the community.”
“So when we had gathered all of these stories, we realized, because they were such fantastic stories, and they were such fantastic people, and the way that they spoke, it was like, why would we ever change that? The best way to tell these stories is in their voices and with their words. So we decided to make it verbatim.”
Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre in which plays are constructed from the precise words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic.
“And that’s a really huge thing for us to – representing them with more respect than we’ve ever done. We sat at a kitchen table drinking tea with these people…We come from these people.”
“These people who we interviewed were children (during the internment). And I feel like there is shame in their experience. That they feel ashamed that they had fun within the context of war. So I think that the feelings that you grow up with must be super complicated. That’s one of the reasons that nobody talks about it. And so to validate that experience, and to include the context of what was happening in the world…That’s the wild thing about these stories is that they talk about it with a really joyful, so joyful, and yet there are these soupsons…”
Don’t miss this incredible, true performance.
Tonight through to May 17th at the MAI.