By Anu Sahota
Toronto-born Rick Shiomi spent much of the 1970s and early 1980s involved in Vancouver's Asian-Canadian theatre scene. In 1983, his acclaimed first play Yellow Fever began its off-Broadway run and was later performed across North America.
The play follows Sam Shikaze, a private eye whose beat is Vancouver's Powell Street - once the residential and social centre of the city's Japanese community. In Yellow Fever, Shiomi plays off detective genre figures such as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, and his hero is as wise and whiskey-soaked as the lot. However, whereas classic noir very often suggested the mysterious Orient, its imaginary denizens and spaces, such as Chinatowns, in terms of peril and pathology, Shiomi's play upends this slant by normalizing its Asian characters and de-normalizing white society. Moreover, Sam Shikaze's monologues recall his community's history, not least their internment during the Second World War. Bogart's Marlowe, luckless as he was, could never have boasted such a tearjerker.
The interview below with Shiomi was conducted in October 1983 for the arts and culture program Vancouver Life, hosted by former CBC Chair and B.C.'s current Minister of Finance, Carole Taylor. I can tell you that I have watched a few episodes of Vancouver Life "as research" and my, Ms. Taylor really knew how to put together an ensemble. I wonder if the CBC budgeted for Halston gowns or if they were Taylor's own. Watch until the end to hear her announce an upcoming segment wherein Jackson Davies of the Beachcombers interviews Michael J. Fox. Wholly unrelated to Asian Heritage Month, so I'm afraid I can't include this folks.
Thank-you to Rick Shiomi for permission to use this footage.