Kansha: An Exploration of Cultural Appreciation Through Dramatic Process




Bell, Hannah

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In 2015, The Japan Times released an article titled: “Of Kimono and Cultural Appropriation” by Shaun O’Dwyer. The article caught my eye immediately as it discusses the importance of the kimono in Japanese culture and how Japanese people want to share their culture. Often when the topic of cultural appropriation comes up in conversation, the tone becomes tense and aggressive. I wanted to approach a theatrical project the viewpoint of appreciation. Since clothing is an important indicator of culture, the kimono became the lens to look at Japan’s cultural history and its connection with Western culture. The idea to turn this article into a performance began in February 2018. Kansha is a devised performance, meaning that the cast, crew and facilitator (Hannah Mariko Bell) worked together to create the script from scratch. The ideas mainly stemmed from the Shaun O’Dwyer article, as well as other academic articles, videos, and some of my own personal family history, which includes the use of family names. It was important to have a personal element in the performance as it was dedicated to my late grandmother, Mieko Kawano, who passed away in September 2018, right as we began to create the performance. The script was created over a two month period. Kansha was initially performed at Intrepid Theatre on November 2 and 3, 2018 as a part of Intrepid Theatre’s YOU Show series, which is focused on giving opportunities to new theatre artists. After the initial run, Kansha had a remount performance at the University Club on November 29, 2018 and at the University of Victoria in the Barbara McIntyre Studio on December 5, 2018. In total, Kansha had six performances. The play focused on the journey of Mariko Kawano as she learns to appreciate her culture with the help from a group of spirits from different periods in Japanese history.



Japanese Canadian, Japanese History, Devised Theatre, Kimono, Cultural Appreciation, Theatre, Applied Theatre