Paul van Dyck’s latest offering tackles the reality of Japanese internment camps
The Nisei & The Narnauks is an outlandish play set in a historical Canadian context. In the guise of an Alice in Wonderland-like coming-of-age adventure story, this play examines the distressing treatment of Japanese Canadians during World War II and juxtaposes it with the overall treatment of First Nations people.
Rising playwright and director Paul Van Dyck states that the idea for the play came during his exploration of Canada’s “real” history.
“In school I was taught that Canada was a ‘melting pot,’ a happy multicultural utopia. I was lied to. When I later learned about the internment of Japanese Canadians, the treatment of First Nations, and the ever present racism in my own community, I was perplexed and angered. I wondered how this could happen in my own country. But mostly I was afraid at how easily these events could be swept under the rug, for when our mistakes are forgotten, that’s when they’re repeated,” he said.
However, this play is a guaranteed pleasure for all ages and all walks of life. Life-like puppets (sometimes giant-sized), live music, lively actors and a magical storytelling experience will captivate you, move you and transport you to a fantastical land where a young girl makes sense of her world.
“I believe this will be an important play. I think it will educate a lot of people, and it will do so in a delightfully subversive way. It will take them on a journey of magic, and beauty, and adventure. And at the end of it all hopefully they won’t want to put their heads back in the sand. They may even want to know more and demand more of the country we live in,” he continued.
And at the very least, Van Dyck says that if you’re not learning anything, you will still be very entertained!
Persephone, once again, has given opportunities to emerging artists. The play features four young, energetic and vibrant actors playing multiple parts through mask and puppets, while also providing all the live sound effects and music. Dawson College alumna Stefanie Nakamura plays young Kimiko. From John Abbott, Michael Briganti takes on the role of Kimiko’s side kick, Raven. Concordia University gives us the final two actors in Jimmy Blais and Brefny Caribou.
Blais tackles the physicality, the voice and the focused performance of a myriad of characters, ranging from princes to wolves. He said that the experience is an “opportunity to tie down to his native roots,” and that the puppets form a bridge that allow the audience to enter the story, while the engaging use of live music helps to tell “a multi-layered show,” allowing this mythical story to be “carried along.”
On the production side, Peter Vatsis provides designs for both set and lighting, while Melanie Michaud takes on costume design. Persephone welcomes the chance to work with puppet and mask maker Zach Fraser. Assisting Van Dyck with direction is Sara Rodriguez, all under the helm of stage manager, Isabel Quintero Faia.
The MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) presents, in collaboration with Persephone Productions, The Nisei and The Narnauks by Paul Van Dyck from Feb. 5 to 22.