Two playwrights in Australia have chosen to base their base their latest theater presentation on the life of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania during the early years of World War II. Known as the Oskar Schindler of Japan, vice-consul Sugihara defied the orders from the Japanese foreign ministry at the time and saved around 10,000 lives by giving visas to fleeing Jewish families. While Australia’s older generations still hold bitter feelings for Japan after the cruel way prisoners of war were treated, but it’s because of that sentiment that Shirley Van Sanden and Monica Main were inspired by Sugihara.
Van Sanden says she originally learned of Chiune Sugihara from a television program in 2001, and in combination with the events of September 11th that year, she saw evidence that an entire country’s people cannot be judged by the actions of a few. Moved by the act of selflessness, Van Sanden and co-director Main used the spirit of Sugihara’s actions for their one-hour play, titled The Warrior and the Princess. The creators are quick to explain that the play is not meant to be a documentary, but rather a re-imagining of history, told through live action, shadow play, puppetry, and music.
Their main character is Kyoshi Yoshida, a man who struggles with traditional Japanese values, and his feelings of compassion. He must follow the orders given to him by the Japanese government, yet he struggles to remain loyal when Jewish refugees are begging him for help. Their use of puppetry speaks to its use in both traditional Japanese and Eastern European cultures, and the creators felt it was a natural way to present the story of a man who comes from Japan to form a bond with European Jews.
[via West Australian]
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