Since graduating from the University of Ottawa’s Theatre Department in 2005, Matt Miwa has been working professionally in theatre for the last 10 years. Matt was most recently featured in Evolution Theatre’s production of Little Martyrs. Other credits include Swiss Cheese in the NAC English Theatre production of Mother Courage and the Stranger in Théâtre de l’île’s production of La soif de l’or. Besides theatre work, Matt is also a short-narrative video maker and a performance artist. He has completed one short-narrative video, Captain Sorelski and the Women in Search of Spacegold and is at work completing his second short-narrative, Murder at the Circus; with his co-creator Lesley Marshall. His performance practice incorporates a mixture of drag, singing and gymastics. He was one of the performers at The 7th White Ecosexual Wedding of Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle and he was most recently invited to perform at the 2015 season launch of Toronto’s Video Fag.
Since graduating from The Dome Theatre Program in 1991, Julie has performed across Canada from school gyms in Nunavik to the independent stage in Vancouver to the national stage in Ottawa. Most recently she appeared in Top Girls (Segal Centre). Selected theatre credits include Titania in A Midsummer Nights’ Dream (Repercussion Theatre), Doris Truscott in Innocence Lost (Centaur Theatre/NAC), Clarence in Richard III (Metachroma), Nancy in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! (NAC), Mrs. Cratchit in Peter Hinton’s direction of A Christmas Carol (NAC), Jam in Greg MacArthur’s girls! girls! girls! (Teatro Comaneci/FTA), Tokyo Rose in Marie Clements’ Burning Vision (Rumble Theatre/ Urban Ink/ FTA/ Magnetic North), and Mielke in Rock, Paper, Jackknife (Talisman Productions). She was recently awarded a META (Montreal English Theatre Award) for Best Supporting Actress for her work as Amelia in Othello (Segal Centre).
Looking to our future, we as Japanese Canadian creators and community activists propose The Tashme Project as an ambitious attempt to define more clearly and more deeply the roots of our cultural heritage and as a preservation effort for contemporary Japanese Canadian culture which is quickly evolving and in many ways diluting. There remains a lot of healing work to be done in the Japanese Canadian community, as the legacy of internment is once again being taken up and addressed by a younger generation, and where questions of cultural identity and legacy are coming into serious play with an intermarriage rate in the 90 percentile for Japanese Canadians across Canada.With The Tashme Project, we are striving to bring more attention and insight into the immigrant experience in Canadian society. We want to really impact on how people understand and appreciate the integration process of minority groups, and highlight how the traumas of cultural integration and negotiation of heritage are processes that span into the 4th and 5th generations, and do not become less intense or less traumatic with each generation. Identity and integration are lifelong processes that often go unappreciated and invalidated, and we wish to vindicate this as well as attest to the belief that current Canadian society still does not possess the tools with which to truly honour, respect and finesse this experience.
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.