Dance and the Internment Camp: Brendan Tetsuo on the long WALK TO TOPAZ this Fringe

Topaz, Utah, was the site of one of several relocation camps which housed Americans of Japanese descent during World War II in one of the darkest hours of U.S. history. Residents of this internment camp included two of Brendan Tetsuo’s grandparents, a family legacy which led him to create WALK TO TOPAZ, part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. We talked to Brendan about his family and work. [Mascher Space Cooperative, 155 Cecil B. Moore Avenue]
September 19-23, 2016; fringearts.com/walk-to-topaz.

brendan-tetsuo

Phindie: What inspired you to create this work?

Brendan Tetsuo: About a year and a half ago I was invited, as an alumnus, to participate in a semester-long workshop called Solo Studies Project at The University of the Arts lead by Jesse Zaritt. We focused on creating autobiographical solo dance performance work and through out time together and working with various guest artists, this work was born.

Phindie: Was the experience of Japanese-American internment talked about in your family?

Brendan Tetsuo: Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side were in the internment camps as teenagers, unfortunately my grandfather passed before I was born, but I did learn about the camps from my grandmother. I was still a child when she was around so many of the experiences were watered down or manipulated to sound more positive, not until I was older did I realize just how much.

Phindie: How do you think that legacy affects your identity today?

Brendan Tetsuo: Looking to my grandparent’s and my mother’s generations I see a more direct impact; racism in general was more obvious to the Asian American community when they were growing up as opposed to today. The affects on my identity are more in relation to their experiences. I also feel the affect in relation to how I react to the issues facing the Muslim American and African American communities today.

Phindie: How did you use dance to communicate these ideas?

Brendan Tetsuo: I have created multiple solos, each one is a character study based on different characteristics I see as directly impacted by the camps. Dance is my most comfortable medium and with help on character development from some of my theater and dance friends, I hope to be able to communicate these ideas

Phindie: What weight of experience would you expect to pass on to the next generation?

Brendan Tetsuo: This has been the most complex part of my research, and is still in many ways unclear. I hope through the making and performing of this work it will become clearer. This work doesn’t necessarily answer the questions I have, but brings these questions to the audience so hopefully with time we can all come to a better understanding of the affect of these events on society.

Phindie: What do you like about your venue?

Brendan Tetsuo: As a member of Mascher Space, it is nice to be able to rehearse and perform in the same space. I am able to create the work specific to the space and the way I imagine my relationship to the audience in such an intimate setting.

Phindie: Is there anything else you’d like to see at this year’s festival?

Brendan Tetsuo: There is so much dance in this year’s FringeArts curated festival, it is really exciting for me. I also would like to see as much local work as possible, I think that is what creates such an amazing energy.

WALK TO TOPAZ
Brendan Tetsuo
Mascher Space Cooperative
155 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Sept 19-23 at 9pm
fringearts.com/walk-to-topaz.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.