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I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour
by Chiori Miyagawa

Production photo

Joel de la Fuente and Juliana Francis-Kelly in a scene from I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour!

Author: Chiori Miyagawa

Description: In “reconstructed” Hiroshima in 1959, a French actress and a Japanese architect have a passionate one-night affair, which conjures memories of their respective first loves, both of whom died during WWII.

Year Written/Copyrighted: 2009
Date Added: 11/3/2011
Content Advisory: Brief descriptions of the aftermath of atomic bombing and human suffering
Keywords: Drama · Historical · Non-traditional/Non-narrative/Experimental/Post-dramatic · Romance · Small Cast Size · Technology and the Internet · War
1 Act, 75 Minutes
2 Females, 1 Male

NOTE: I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at rd@indietheaternow.com.

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From the Author:

I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour is my rebuttal to Marguerite Duras’s screenplay Hiroshima Mon Amour and Alain Resnais’s famous film. When I finally watched the movie in the fiftieth-anniversary year of its release, I was annoyed by the appropriation of the city’s tragedy by the French female protagonist. How could one person’s loss possibly be thought of as a metaphor for the deaths of one hundred thousand people? And why is she the only person with memories? Why doesn’t the Japanese man reveal his personal history? I decided to give a Japanese woman who perishes at the bombing a voice and the Japanese man his own past to lament. The play is magical and poetic, with occasional yet unmistakable humor.

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Original Production Information

I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour was first presented by Voice & Vision Theater and Crossing Jamaica Avenue as part of the Hiroshima Project at the Ohio Theater in May 2009.

Japanese Man: Joel de la Fuente
Juliana Francis-Kelly: French Woman
Sue Jean Kim: Japanese Woman
Japanese voice-over by Brian Nishii

Director: Jean Wagner
Lighting designer: Rick Martin
Music & Sound designer: Du Yun
Projection designer: Hap Tivey
Set designer: Glenn Reed
Costume designer: Liz Prince
Choreography / Education Director: Hillary Spector
Producer: Karen Grenke
Assistant Director: Rachael Hayes
Stage Manager: Sunneva Stapleton
Assistant Stage Manager: Adam Goldman
French Translation by: Sidne Koenigsberg and Oan Kim

Review by Martin Denton

A French woman and a Japanese man speak of the bombing of Hiroshima, 14 years after it happened:

JAPANESE MAN: The world rejoiced. And you rejoiced with them. I heard that it was a beautiful day in Paris. Do you remember?
FRENCH WOMAN: No, it wasn't a beautiful day at all. It rained all day and people mourned.
JAPANESE MAN: Is that true?
FRENCH WOMAN: It's true now. We all mourn the tragedy of Hiroshima now.

What this French Woman says, we readily accept as true. But is it true? Can it be true? Such are the ineffable questions posed by Chiori Miyagawa in her gorgeous new play I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour.

Miyagawa considers memories and their owners in this complex, layered work. Three stories unfold simultaneously. One is the story of Marguerite Duras's screenplay for Alain Resnais's film Hiroshima Mon Amour: a French actress, visiting Japan to make a film about peace, falls in love with a Japanese man in Hiroshima. The second is the story of that man and his fiancee, in the time before he went to war, when they lived and loved in Hiroshima; she becomes one of the first victims of the atomic bomb. The third takes place in New York City, now: three young friends, two of whom are of Asian descent, watch the Resnais film together and argue about its meaning.

People who see I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour may have similar arguments, for this is a rich, challenging, sometimes difficult (though always accessible) piece. On its surface the play seems to be about appropriation of memories, in the manner that the French Woman in the dialogue quoted above suggests that the world has somehow assumed Hiroshima's mantle of sadness out of regret. The question is, does that equate to assumption of responsibility? Is it, instead, usurpation?

The play also reveals details about what happened in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, horrific and authentically awesome. This is history we only know sketchily here in America; perhaps hearing its terrible, brutal specifics will make it more real, make us more determined not to repeat it.

But underlying everything in the play, I felt a keen and sad sense of the futility of addressing a tragedy of the proportions of Hiroshima in any word or deed or art. The Japanese Man, near the end of I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour, says "What happened in Hiroshima belongs to the people of Hiroshima. They can do whatever they like with their memories." What, finally, can any of us do with such memories that won't diminish what they are?

This world premiere of Miyagawa's play is presented by her own company Crossing Jamaica Avenue in partnership with Voice & Vision, whose artistic director, Jean Wagner, has staged this production. It's largely very effectively done, but the movement segments sometimes felt heavy-handed to me. The play is performed by Joel de la Fuente, Juliana Francis-Kelly, and Sue Jean Kim, all of whom do superb work. Innovative multimedia design by Glenn Reed, Rick Martin, Hap Tivey, and Du Yun contribute much to the ethereal feel of the show.

review of the original 2009 production

Excerpt from I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour

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Japanese Man passes the film shoot location. Outdoors. 1959.

JAPANESE MAN

Are you a tourist? May I invite you for coffee?


FRENCH WOMAN

Why do you speak to me?


JAPANESE MAN

You look bored.


FRENCH WOMAN

I’m working.


JAPANESE MAN

What’re you working on?


FRENCH WOMAN

What’re you working on?


JAPANESE MAN

I built the elementary school in Nobori-cho. I’m an architect.


FRENCH WOMAN

I don’t know my way around.


JAPANESE MAN

It’s not anywhere you’d go to.


FRENCH WOMAN

What else have you built?


JAPANESE MAN

There has been a lot to do in this city.


FRENCH WOMAN

Are you building the new train station?


JAPANESE MAN

No.


FRENCH WOMAN

No? why not?


JAPANESE MAN

I’m designing the station for the local trains, in front of the main station.


FRENCH WOMAN

The smaller one?


JAPANESE MAN

Yes, the local station, for the small trains that people ride every day.


FRENCH WOMAN

Did you design the memorial museum?


JAPANESE MAN

Did you know that three days after the bomb dropped, the city managed to restore and run one of the local lines? No one was riding the train through the wasteland, but it gave people hope to see something functioning normally.


FRENCH WOMAN

Is that why you’re designing the local station?


JAPANESE MAN

It will open next year. 1960.


FRENCH WOMAN

A clean break from the tainted years. And the elementary school. The students were all born after the war, weren’t they?


JAPANESE MAN

Not the students at the school when I’d just rebuilt it. The original building was completely destroyed. For a year, the school was desks and chairs neatly placed in rows amidst rubble in open air. If it rained, children and teachers ran.


FRENCH WOMAN

When was this?


JAPANESE MAN

Don’t you know?


FRENCH WOMAN

Of course. 1946.


JAPANESE MAN

Then they moved into a temporary shack. By the time the permanent building went up, the first graders who used to study in the old building were graduating.


FRENCH WOMAN

How strange that the time passes the same everywhere. Even here.


JAPANESE MAN

You can take a taxi from the café back to your hotel. Have coffee with me.


FRENCH WOMAN

Do I look like someone?


JAPANESE MAN

Should you look like someone?


FRENCH WOMAN

I’m an actress. It’s my job to look like someone else.


JAPANESE MAN

Are you acting in a film?


FRENCH WOMAN

Not right now. I’m talking to you. But perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m acting right now.


JAPANESE MAN

Are you coming?


FRENCH WOMAN

All right. I’m coming. To meet in Hiroshima. That doesn’t happen every day.


JAPANESE MAN

Are we going to fall in love?


FRENCH WOMAN

It’s inevitable. Yes. Fall in love in Hiroshima. I’ve been waiting since I was twenty.


JAPANESE MAN

Waiting for me?


FRENCH WOMAN

Waiting to tell my story to a stranger.