Saturday, February 4, 2023

Finding forgiveness in the horrors of war

The Arts Club Theatre Company presents the world premiere stage adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness on the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from January 12–February 12, 2023.

The Arts Club Theatre Company presents the world premiere stage adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness by Vancouver-based playwright Hiro Kanagawa, in a story of the enduring love of family and a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit. 

Forgiveness is a beautiful Canadian story, a vital piece of our history, and it is all the more inspirational and relevant today, given the social and political divisiveness we currently face. – Hiro Kanagawa

Based on Sakamoto’s award-winning and bestselling novel, Forgiveness is the true story of Sakamoto’s grandparents during World War II.

Ralph, his maternal grandfather, was a Canadian soldier of European descent who spent years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Mitsue, his paternal grandmother, was one of the thousands of Japanese Canadians interned by the Canadian government during the war.

Yet, despite their unspeakable experiences, Mitsue and Ralph would persevere and find forgiveness in their hearts so that their children’s inheritance is love, not hate.

“My stage adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s beloved and best-selling family memoir, Forgiveness, is not a note-for-note rendition of the book’s favourite scenes and greatest hits, but it does hope to capture the emotional core of what made Mark’s book so powerful in the first place: the love of home and family, the faith in human goodness, the courage to fight for what is right, and the grace to forgive,” says Kanagawa. “Forgiveness is a beautiful Canadian story, a vital piece of our history, and it is all the more inspirational and relevant today given the social and political divisiveness we currently face.”

It is a story that immediately hooked the Arts Club’s artistic director Ashlie Corcoran and the play’s dramaturg Stephen Drover.

“We knew that this true story—with all its sensitivity, curiosity, grit, and heart—needed to be on our stage,” says Corcoran.

“The story of this play reminds us of the enduring love of family, celebrates the human spirit’s remarkable and blessed ability to forgive, and pulls our attention towards a deep need for unity in times of division,” adds Drover. “It has been an inspiration to foster the  development of this project, to see organizations and individuals come together in deep, meaningful partnerships, and  to help elevate this remarkable story.”

Produced in association with Theatre Calgary, the story has special meaning for Stafford Arima, the company’s artistic director and director of the play.

This story of forgiveness is an invigorating tonic of storytelling, memories, and humanity that heals through its narrative. – Stafford Arima

“Since my father and his family were interned in Slocan, B.C., I am honoured to be directing this powerful theatre adaptation, by Hiro Kanagawa, of Mark Sakamoto’s epic memoir,” he says. “This story of forgiveness is an invigorating tonic of storytelling, memories, and humanity that heals through its narrative.”

The Arts Club will also partner with the Museum of Vancouver, the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, and the UBC Library to produce the Finding Forgiveness panel, a discussion on WWII Japanese Canadian Internment. The panel will feature a conversation surrounding the question, “What can stories from the stage teach us about the ongoing legacies of this history?”

Forgiveness plays at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St, Vancouver) from January 12 through February 12. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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