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CREATED BY JULIE TAMIKO MANNING & MATT MIWA
We began our journey by interviewing members of our family about their internment experience. As a general rule, stories of internment have not been passed down and remain largely untold in Japanese Canadian families. When we sat down in formal interview with our elders, 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 fleshed out.
The Nisei themselves were ALL reluctant at first, but what was promised to be half hour interviews almost always extended to two hour sessions. The stories collected are touching, often humorous and continue to inspire a great pride and admiration for our elders
The first version of The Tashme Project was presented at the Fire Hall as part of the 2011 Powell St. Festival in Vancouver – Canada’s largest Japanese Canadian Festival. In the years following, Julie and Matt have travelled to Vancouver, Burnaby, Hamilton, Etobicoke, Toronto, Belleville, Scarborough, Ottawa, Farnham and Montreal and have had the privilege of conducting many more interviews to complete our final script.
The Tashme Project is a one act verbatim, or documentary-style play that has been carefully pieced together from over 70 hours of interview time with 30 Nisei, or 2nd generation Japanese Canadians from Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal. The play traces the history of the Nisei 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 here in sharp relief to the more common internment narratives of hardship and injustice. Moving from voice to voice and story to story with fluidity and constructed gracefulness, the piece is performed by its creators Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, as a tribute to Nisei character, language, spirit and story.
We (Matt and Julie) met through the Acting Company at Ottawa's National Arts Centre in October 2009. As Japanese Canadians, we were immediately curious about each other and during the four months that we worked together, began to compare similarities in each other’s lives: both theatre artists, both mixed race and, the most essential connection, both of our families were interned in Tashme: an internment camp just outside of Hope, BC, during WW2. Though a generation apart (Matt is Yonsei, 4th generation, Julie is Sansei, 3rd) we expressed similar anxieties regarding our cultural identity.
Through chats about family, community – and the lack thereof – and through our mutual desire to delve deeper into the past, to uncover and revisit the stories of the Issei (1st generation) and Nisei (2nd generation), a commitment emerged to create a theatre piece that would explore the past – particularly the internment experience and how it resonates with the contemporary JC community. Generally saddled with a legacy of silence in regards to the internment, the greatest struggle facing the Japanese Canadian community today is the transference of cultural history and pride to its younger generations.
Seeking to re-invigorate this process, we embarked on The Tashme Project: The Living Archives.