Joan Evans saw a blurb about Takashi Tanemori and reached an epiphany. The director, choreographer, and movement instructor at Stella Adler Studio of Acting read a brief description of Tanemori, a Berkeley resident who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, and it inspired her to create a movement piece in collaboration with designer Harry Rubeck.
The result is the original movement and theater piece Is It Already Dusk?, which opened at Irondale Center on February 21 and runs through March 2.
Tanemori was eight years old when he was orphaned by the blast on August 6, 1945. After living on the streets of war-ravaged Hiroshima, he came to the US as a teenager with hatred in his heart and revenge on his mind. After becoming a Baptist minister and having spiritual encounters, Tanemori, now 76, was able to forgive the US. The horrific events of September 11, 2001, solidified Tanemori’s resolve to advocate for peace.
I first met Takashi Tanemori in 2010 at a poetry reading presented by Yumi Tanaka, co-founder of the New York Peace Film Festival. Local actors read Hiroshima- and Nagasaki-related poems, some written by Tanemori himself. Afterward Tanemori, surrounded by his own peace-themed artwork, told the intimate crowd his remarkable story of survival in Japan and the United States.
That story isn’t exactly what you’ll see in Is It Already Dusk?, as Evans and Rubeck took a few liberties with the details, but with Tanemori’s blessing. Interweaving worldwide reaction to 9/11 with images of the aftermath of World War II, Is It Already Dusk? shows Tanemori’s struggles on the road to peace and reminds us of our own struggles to comprehend the terrorist attacks.
The gritty interior of the Irondale Center in Brooklyn serves as a stark canvas upon which Evans paints these stories with movement, bold action, and stunning subtlety. There is very little dialogue, the majority of it in Japanese from Tanemori (played by Yasu Suzuki) and translated into English by Mary (Mary Cavett), the kind nurse who became Tanemori’s guardian after he fell ill and spent time in a California hospital soon after his arrival in the US.
At first I thought the performance was too much 9/11 and not enough Tanemori, possibly because Tanemori’s story was already precious to me. But the movements of the actors as they played out scenes involving September 11 awakened my own dormant feelings about what happened that day. You can never forget what you were doing when those planes flew into the World Trade Center, especially if you were in New York City. Multiply those emotions by one thousand, and we may come close to a sense of Tanemori being propelled back to Hiroshima on the day the US military dropped an atomic bomb on his hometown.
Yes, the subject matter is dark, but there is an underlying feeling of peace and hope that permeates the performance. If a man who endured Tanemori’s life can come away with peace and gratitude, then there’s hope for the rest of us.
Is It Already Dusk? highlights by Glamsmash Productions: