Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa in The Tashme Project: The Living Archives.
Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa in The Tashme Project: The Living Archives.

Chronicling the experiences of the Nisei, the second generation of Japanese-Canadians who were children when interned during World War Two, The Tashme Project seeks to recall and immortalize an experience that those who went through it often sought to forget. It is a fascinating dichotomy that creates a resonant tension in the story that echoes through to modern times.

The Tashme Project is performed by creators Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning who speak and move through the bodies of the Nisei they interviewed. Their physical movements are precise and draw memorable characters as they effortlessly cycle through stories. Juxtaposed against original photographs of the people interviewed, the characterizations become a visceral experience of the storytelling, as if we are hearing the voices of the Nisei first-hand. Coupled with ongoing commentary by Miwa and Manning, the hour and a half long production flies by ending on a solemn note of remembrance; turning a shared experience into a memento.

From the set design to the physical choreography, The Tashme Project has a masterful subtlety allowing it’s subject to shine through with simplicity. Mike Payette’s direction pays attention to moments with a shrewd precision that underscores the show’s plays with every micro-movement.

George Allister and Patrick Andrew Boivin’s video design is an ethereal addition that acts like a Kickstarter perk – unnecessary but a nice add-on. But it is Rebecca Harper’s movement dramaturgy that elevates the piece from simple historical reminder to an evocative piece of experiential art.

For Miwa and Manning, The Tashme Project is personal. It is an attempt to connect with their history – both familial and cultural. It is their commentary that really makes the story sing. It is their emotional connection to the story, and to the audience, that provides a conduit for any audience member to connect with our shared Canadian history.

The Tashme Project is a very special show that straddles the line between too personal and too historical with such ease that they might as well be riding it and directing it into a whole new category of experience. While I would have loved a bit more words of the Nisei at the ending, it is a quietly polished jewel of a show. Go see it.

The Tashme Project, created by Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning. Directed by Mike Payette.  Produced by Firehall Arts Centre. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 E Cordova St, Vancouver) until April 13 2019. Visit firehallartscentre.ca  for tickets and information.