QDF spoke with the co-creators Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning of The Tashme Project: The Living Archives. The responses are in one voice as creators.
QDF: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as co- creators of the project? How was the experience working together on such an intimate work?
As half-Japanese Canadian theatre creators, we bonded very quickly as it is extremely rare to meet other Japanese Canadians in the world, let alone in this field. Being creators, we both had always yearned to delve into our past, and the legacy of the Japanese Canadian internment, yet alone, we felt equally powerless to start. As a rule, stories of the internment are not discussed in Japanese Canadian families and growing up in the face of this silence impacted us both at a very deep level. We needed each other in the end, to begin the process of discovery and transformation. We shouldered each other through the initial outreach to our elders, through the interview process that has forever changed our relationship to them, and finally through the years-long and nerve wracking creation process that has led to this point.
QDF: As performers of documentary theatre, can you tell us what it’s like to perform these people you had interviewed?
It is an immense privilege, particularly because of how connected we feel to our community and our elders through this process. Speaking these stories and embodying our interviewees vocally, physically and spiritually, is a form of communion. We feel that we carry, cradle and champion these stories and in doing so we hope to ignite a pride of identity for all generations of the Japanese Canadian community. We seek to validate the long silent voices of our elders, and by sharing the vitality inherent in their testimonies, we not only want to illuminate our history for younger generation Japanese Canadians, we want to inspire in them a desire to reach out to their own elders and to talk to each other about what it means to be Japanese Canadian.
QDF: You’ve described the reluctance of subjects and how they developed into lengthy sessions. Have all of the subjects seen the finished work? What has the response been like?
It is both wonderful and terrifying to perform/impersonate our interviewees, but of course we always extend invitations out to them when we are performing in their part of the country. Over the years we have managed to show a good three quarters of our interviewees the work, and while their response is not always vocalized, we can tell they have been touched by the work and this very personal process. The thing is, we always perform their stories from a place of reverence and honour, and when they are in the audience, these emotions have a very specific place to land. It is wonderful to come full circle in these moments, and to direct the work back onto its sources.
QDF: As per the title, the project is living and seems to be evolving. What do you see for its future?
We are so lucky to be able to carry these stories forward for the rest of our lives; they will always serve as touchstones to the past, to our community, and to an inarticulate sense of faith. Specifically, because it is such a pleasure to perform these stories, we do not want to stop. For the next iteration of this project, we want to break out of theatre into new media: graphic novels, podcast and documentary. We have no firm plans; we just know we don’t want to stop!
Thank you Matt and Julie for taking the time to speak with us!
The Tashme Project Creative team
Mike Payette, Director
Rebecca Harper, Movement Dramaturg
James Lavoie, Set & Costume Designer
Laurence Mongeau, Assistant Set & Costume Designer
David Perreault Ninacs, Lighting Designer
George Allister & Patrick Andrew Boivin, Video Designers
Patrick Andrew Boivin, Sound Designer
Isabel Quintero Faia, Stage Manager
Tristynn Duheme, Technical Director
Merissa Tordjman, Production Consultant