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Sansei explores the raw emotion behind Japanese internment

Calgary artist Mark Ikeda brings an important production back to the stage

Sansei digs into Mark Ikeda's roots

Courtesy iCandyfilms

Sansei digs into Mark Ikeda's roots

In grade school, the Japanese internment camps of World War II were mere footnotes in Canadian textbooks.

“I had kids in my class ask me, ‘you’re Japanese, did you know about this?’ No. I had no idea,” recalled Calgary actor and playwright Mark Ikeda.

Year’s later, after training with One Yellow Rabbit and serving as artistic director for MoMo Dance Theatre, Ikeda returned to the world of the previous generations to create Sansei: The Storyteller.

It reimagines the Japanese internment through Ikeda’s eyes, using humour and movement to tell the story of one of Canada’s darkest decisions.  

It’s a world he’s learned a lot more about in his adult life.

“If the Japanese internment didn’t happen in Canada, I wouldn’t be alive,” he said.

The piece was originally brought to the stage in 2015, and although the bones are still in place, it’s been steadily refined into the creation we see today. Ikeda’s comedic timing has been honed and the movement is very fine tuned.

On stage, Ikeda presents three main story threads from the era. He uses text and spoken word poetry to get his point across, but when the emotions overwhelm him and words just don’t cut it anymore, he expresses himself through movement and dance.

“It’s a really vital idea that in a lot of our pasts there have been moments of hate, anger and aggression,” he explained. “This, for me, was a great way to look at that for myself and for my personal history. To see the world and my community through a difference lens. Although there have been moments of hate and aggression, that doesn’t need to colour the way I see the world.”

He hopes audiences will leave with a similar view point. Not only will they learn about an important part of Canadian history, but he hopes they will release that these dark moments don’t have to end in hate, but in togetherness within the community.

Sansei will be performed at Arts Commons Motel Theatre from Nov. 1 to 4. Visit for more information.

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