How Tetsuro Shigematsu's new play brought him closer to his father

Tetsuro Shigematsu's new play Empire of the Son explores the relationship between him and his father, Akira.
Tetsuro Shigematsu's new play Empire of the Son explores the relationship bewteen Tetsuro and his father Akira, both former CBC broadcasters. (Tetsuro Shigematsu/Facebook)

Tetsuro Shigematsu never had a single conversation with his father Akira — until he started interviewing him for his play, Empire of the Son

Tetsuro grew up thinking of his dad as sort of a ghost, "because he'd be there physically but we'd never interact," he explains. But when he learned that Akira's health was starting to decline due to illness, he wanted to break that wall so he could pass his story on, to his children and to people across the country. 

"The one thing we had in common was the fact that we were both former public radio broadcasters so the object we were both familiar with was the microphone," Tetsuro says. "So when I first pointed it at my father and said, 'Okay dad, I'm going to ask you a series of questions and I'll record them,' he was completely fine with that. In fact, I interviewed him for about two years and he never once asked why I was interview him." 

So what did Tetsuro say when he finally told Akira he was planning on telling his story to others? "If you share my story with other people then my life will have had some meaning." 

Akira Shigematsu died 18 days before Empire of the Son premiered. The play explores the relationship between Tetsuro and Akira, and in a way, this helped Tetsuro deal with his father's death in a healthy way.

"I was really grateful to have the process of this play," Tetsuro admits. "I am able to create my own ritual in terms of processing my own feelings about how I felt about my father dying."

WEB EXTRA | Watch the trailer for Empire of the Son below.

Catch Empire of the Son in the following Canadian cities: 

Nov. 1-13, Vancouver @ Vancity Culture Lab at The Culth
Nov. 22 - Dec. 3, Ottawa @National Arts Centre
Jan. 11-14, Montreal @ Centaur Theatre
Jan. 18-29, Toronto @ Factory Theatre