This small-audience, site-responsive piece is engaged to premiere September 20 - 30, 2017 for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese Canadian incarceration at Hastings Park. It will go on to be the fall installation at the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, and tour to the Langham Centre in Kaslo on October 7 & 8, 2017. It will also have a short, “teaser” version included in the Powell Street Festival on August 5 & 6, 2017.
While both the US and Canadian governments were complicit in incarcerating citizens of Japanese descent in camps, the systems in BC and Vancouver were particularly egregious, even after the war. The right of return to Vancouver wasn’t restored until 1949, by which time the houses, businesses and other assets of Japanese Canadians were long-sold (in part to fund the incarceration of the very citizens the assets were stolen from). Moreover, many of the sites where camps once stood are now figuratively (and in at least one case) literally submerged. A larger force of societal amnesia is underscored by both ignorance and the dangerous potential of repeated patterns. This piece will specifically examine how people are affected by the systemic hiding of history. To address these complexities with care and nuance, and without rhetoric, demands a site specific theatre exploration to personalize the horror's scale, make historical context immediate, and transform how we understand the "other."
Pre-incarceration, 75% of the Japanese Canadian population lived within 75 miles of Vancouver. In addition to the dislocation and dispersal during the war, post-war BC Japanese Canadians were sent to Japan, or East of the Rockies. The diffusive and destructive forces of the diaspora and predatory financial forces at work, coupled with a systemic lack of recognition (the city of Vancouver only did so formally in 2013) deserve recording, exposition and transformation into a performative experience at the site(s) of the former transgressions.
Development and production of JAPANESE PROBLEM is made possible with support from National Association of Japanese Canadians, Nikkei National Museum, Hastings Park Committee, The Langham and Boca Del Lupo.
Universal Limited is a young theatre collaboration dedicated to seeking wonder and the unexpected; to discovering something new and satisfying in the ancient and visceral joys of performance. Particularly attuned to discovering oft-neglected stories of people and communities outside of the traditional canon, they have brought their direct and unpretentious pedicab adventure Tour to five different locations, each time drawing from local, hidden history, stories from marginalized communities, and original music to create an experiential, engaging and personal performance. Most recently seen at SummerWorks in Toronto, Tour uncovered the work of uncompensated asylum patient labour, buried First Nations history, and the mark of immigration patterns on the alleys of Queen Street West. Universal Limited’s unique, site-specific methodology breaks down barriers between spectator and performer, encouraging communities to see the submerged stories in their midst. Audiences have typically included those alienated from traditional venues, when the promise of tour/adventure/ or even pedicab ride is less formal and intimidating; welcoming children, immigrants and people with disabilities who are drawn to the direct and unpretentious context. Though the collaborative is not an incorporated company yet, they periodically gather talented, independent artists to research, develop, and produce site-responsive performance. Click here for a trailer of our previous work.
Joanna Garfinkel started new play development collective Universal Limited in August 2011, after a dozen years of working in theatre creation. Previously, she co-created and directed the pedicab adventure our or HIVE 3 with the Electric Company, Universal Limited, and the Cultural Olympiad. That site-specific escapade went on to the Firehall, was award-winning at the Fringe, and has since been reinvented for Victoria (Theatre SKAM), and Toronto (SummerWorks). She is currently co-creating a site-specific piece about the Japanese Canadian Internment to premiere at Hastings Park in September 2017, in a collaboration between Universal Limited and the Nikkei Centre. Other credits include co-curating, dramaturging and directing the Northern Play Reading Series in Yellowknife, NWT (Akpik Theatre). She was awarded the Pure Research grant for Nightswimming Theatre (Toronto), was nominated for the Jessie award for Innovation (etters from Lithuani/Mortal Coil), and has received the Sidney Risk award for directing. She often works as a freelance writer and dramaturg for playwrights and companies in Vancouver. She moved to Vancouver to get her MFA in directing at UBC, and her focus since has been primarily in new play development, multidisciplinary, and site-specific work. She has trained with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company in New York. joannagarfinkel.com
Yoshié Bancroft is a Japanese Canadian actor and theatre creator with a strong interest in the Japanese Canadian incarceration. In 2015 she took a walking tour of Hastings Park, run by the Nikkei Centre. Though vaguely aware of the incarceration history, suddenly the geographic proximity and magnitude of the transgression became immediate and tangible, while standing in an animal stall in the Livestock Building--where women and children had once slept. The experience motivated the creation of JAPANESE PROBLEM as she began to wonder how many people attend the PNE without knowing that the site processed 8,000 Japanese Canadians during WWII, including many who died at the site.
Recent theatre credits include Lizzie in Pride & Prejudice (Chemainus Theatre Festival), Patricia in Flare Path (Slamming Door Collective), The Air Loom (you & I Theatre), Evie/Cat* in Ithaka (dream of passions / Excavation Theatre), Pride & Prejudice (Arts Club), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Home is a Beautiful Word (Belfry), Tour (Universal Ltd.)-- a show she co-created with support from The Electric Company for Hive 3, and toured to Toronto for Summerworks. Other favourite roles include ‘Lydia’ in Big Love (UBC) and ‘Zhaboonigan’ in The Rez Sisters (UBC). Notable Film/TV credits include Emily Owens M.D., The Flash, Bates Motel, Supernatural, Impastor, and Pancake Breakfast, which screened in Austin at SXSW.
*Jessie Richardson award