“Two generations of Japanese have seen this play,” said Tama Copithorne, project co-director for One Thousand Cranes.
The Bunkaza Theatre Company from Tokyo is coming to UBC to perform One Thousand Cranes, a play by Ren Hisa based on UBC alumnus Colin Thomas’s original production. The plot centres on two children: Sadako, a Japanese girl with leukemia from the Hiroshima bombing radiation, and Buddy, a Canadian boy who grows up with a fear of nuclear war.
The title One Thousand Cranes comes from the folk belief that if a person is able to fold 1000 paper cranes, their wish will come true. In the case of the real-life Sadako Sasaki, she was unable to fold the cranes before her death. Her friends and family created a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, where paper cranes are still hung in her honour.
The play blends the story of Sadako with the fictional Canadian boy, Buddy.
The Bunkaza Theatre Company originally performed One Thousand Cranes from 1985 to 1989. The play was revived in 2009 in response to a request by those who had seen the earlier production as kids and wanted their own children to see it.
The production is the closing event for the Museum of Anthropology’s series of symposiums, cultural concerts, academic lectures and film screenings coinciding with the exhibition Hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako.
“The translator of the play heard about the exhibition and contacted me, saying, ‘Please invite our theatre group, because we have this perfect piece…and we would love to come and perform it in conjunction with the exhibition,’” said Copithorne. “Cultural events always start with ideas and then you find the funds to make it possible.”
The script was translated into Japanese by Toyoshi Yoshihara and will be accompanied by English surtitles. “What’s [happening] on the stage is very obvious. If you don’t understand the Japanese language, you’ll understand the story from what [the storyteller] gives you,” Copithorne said.
“In a way, this is an experimental performance to present foreign language speaking.”
Copithorne was the first Japanese exchange student to attend UBC, and the former director of the Japanese program for International Communication at Simon Fraser University.
Interwoven throughout the Hiroshima programs are themes of peace and war, particularly nuclear war issues. The community is not only encouraged to attend the events but also to “understand what kind of world we live in today” through the programs.
“When we started working on this, there was no Fukushima,” Copithorne added. “It couldn’t be a better time to bring this group, because this is a story about children’s fears and concerns about nuclear issues, and as adults, we should be listening to children’s voices.”
A few school groups, most of which have Japanese language, global issues or world history educational programs, are invited to attend the dress rehearsal on February 9.
“We would love these kids to come because it’s about what they are saying,” Copithorne said. “[One Thousand Cranes] describes so vividly the threat of nuclear age through children’s voices. They are very honest and powerful voices, and we must humbly listen to them.”