Empire of the one

The life of Tetsuro Shigematsu has been nothing short of extraordinary.

His experience as a writer for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a columnist for The Huffington Post, a playwright, a filmmaker, and a one-man show actor, have all uniquely distinguished Shigematsu’s career among Canadian broadcasters.

Shigematsu has written and starred in several of his own plays on stages across Canada. Recently at the Martha Cohen Theatre, in downtown Calgary, he performed one of his latest solo works,
Empire of the Son.

Empire of the Son, is a one-man show starring Shigematsu and tells the story of the rocky relationship between Shigematsu and his late-father, Akira Shigematsu.

Shigematsu said that his father often described his theatrical career as, “my son makes fun of my accent for a living.”

Shigematsu’s said his father disapproved of his son’s comical yet
touching renditions of their relationship in his plays.

The younger Shigematsu was finally able to gain his father’s approval to tell his story.

Shigematsu said that his father finally gave his blessing when he told him, “if you share my stories with other people, then my life will have had some meaning.”

Shigematsu’s father died approximately two weeks before the world premiere of Empire of the Son in 2015.

Both Shigematsu and his father had a background in radio broadcasting, and it became one of the primary mediums the younger Shigematsu used to convey his father’s story.

Above all, Empire of the Son is a memoir of Shigematsu’s late father, through which he explores his life through presentation of letters and heirlooms.

“He probably would have said he didn’t understand it, it’s something he often claimed, that English was not his first language,” said Shigematsu.

“I think he may not have cared for the show necessarily, but I think on another level. I have it on good authority that my father was, in fact, proud. I was able to navigate certain parts of Canadian society
and culture that he felt were closed off to him as a first-generation immigrant.”

A show that many would expect to be very emotional and touching, Empire of the Son is quite the opposite. The show takes a very comedic and lighthearted approach to portraying him and his father’s

“It doesn’t really matter what I feel, because the audience will have their own reaction regardless,” said Shigematsu.

“The power is in the story and not my performance.”

Since premiering in 2015, Shigematsu has performed Empire of the Son in 10 different cities across Canada.

“Calgary is part of a longer tour, but for me, being able to perform at ATP [Alberta Theatre Project] and the High Performance Rodeo is kind of a dream come true,” said Shigematsu.

“I’ve known about the rodeo ever since I was in art school, and so from one perspective this is just one stop on the tour, but on the other hand it’s kind of a culmination of a lifelong dream to get here to Calgary.”

Shigematsu’s next destination for Empire of the Son is at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, running from Wednesday, Jan. 31 to Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

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