Forgiveness director Stafford Arima on how the play “reveals to heal” impacts of WWII internment and captivity

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      One grandparent spent years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. The other was interned by the Canadian government for being Japanese-Canadian. Mark Sakamoto's memoir, Forgiveness, tells a true story of perseverance that spans decades—and its powerful, pertinent message will be brought to life onstage in a new production by Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company.

      Adapted by playwright Hiro Kanagawa, Forgiveness doesn't simply transfer the events in the memoir onto stage. Instead, it excavates the themes that form the core of the story—home, family, courage, and faith—to create a new work unique to the theatre. 

      While adapting a beloved book for stage is a daunting prospect, Arts Club isn’t doing it alone. The play is a joint production with Theatre Calgary, which began in 2019 as part of the Arts Club’s Silver Commissions program, supported by the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.

      Stafford Arima, Forgiveness Director and Artistic Director at Theatre Calgary, tells the Straight that making Forgiveness aco-production felt particularly apt. 

      "It just seemed serendipitous that the play is based on a historical Canadian experience, and that both of our theatres are situated in the provinces of where some of the play takes place."

      Forgiveness will head to YYC in late February following a month-long run in Vancouver. 

      Arima also has a personal connection to the story, as he also had family members who were forcibly interned during the war. He says  he’s grateful for the opportunity to have a hand in telling the story presented in Forgiveness

      "With so much that is happening in our world today, especially with Truth and Reconciliation, with everything that's happening right now in Ukraine, this piece—this story—even though it takes place back in the 40s, resonates in a very powerful way today," he says. 

      And while confronting Canada’s dark past can be difficult, Arima says that bringing those stories into the light can be a powerful avenue for catharsis.

      "I always feel that, with theatre, the goal is to reveal to heal. Theatre has the capacity to reveal stories, characters, history, situations, and allow that story to have that healing property, and this piece does in dividends. It heals in many ways, and it doesn’t hold back."

      A panel has also been created alongside the play to facilitate a discussion on Japanese-Canadian internment in WWII. Finding Forgiveness will feature Hiro Kanagawa alongside prominent Japanese-Canadians Carolyn Nakagawa, Vivian Rygnestad, and Grace Eiko Thomson, in an exploration of how  stories from the stage can teach us about the ongoing legacies of this history.

      Finding Forgiveness, presented in a partnership between the Arts Club, the Museum of Vancouver, the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, and the UBC Library, will take place on Friday, January 6 at the Museum of Vancouver with a $10 to $20 sliding scale admission cost. 

      Forgiveness will run at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from January 12 to February 12. Tickets are available here.