June Fukumura is a Japanese-Canadian, multi-disciplinary artist with a BFA in Theatre Performance from Simon Fraser University. June is the Co-Artistic Director of Popcorn Galaxies, an experimental theatre company interested in re-enchanting the everyday through unconventional site-responsive works. June is also the Co-Founder of New(to)Town Collective, an artist collective with a mandate to provide ongoing accessible physical theatre training and experimental research workshops in Vancouver. She is the Assistant Dramaturg at the Banff Playwrights Lab and the Emerging Dramaturg for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's MSG Lab produced in association with Playwrights Theatre Centre. Her practice is a blend of experimental contemporary theatre, site-responsive and site-specific art making, embodied performance techniques, and community engaged art making and education. She has a deep interest in playing with and interrogating traditional theatrical conventions, often blurring the line between reality/fiction and performer/audience in her work. We asked June What’s Upintheair and many other questions:
Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis. Who is SUMIKO?
Sumiko is a hyper-kawaii, unabashedly raunchy, J-Pop idol wannabe bouffon character. Sumiko is an assemblage of all of the “taboo” parts of my identity as a second generation Nikkei (Japanese-Canadian) woman. She is a larger-than-life manga character come to life. Sumiko subverts Japanese cultural stereotypes by embodying and amplifying iconic Japanese images. By hyperbolizing these stereotypes she defies expectations, inviting the audience to critique and deconstruct their internalized assumptions about Japanese culture.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement in theatre is being the Artistic Director of Popcorn Galaxies and the Co-Founder of New(to)Town Collective. I started building both of these organizations when I was still an undergraduate student at SFU. I had no idea Popcorn Galaxies and New(to)Town Collective would become such a core part of my artist career. With both organizations we’ve been able to accomplish so much and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?
In 2014 I travelled to Iquitos, Peru to be a part of the 9th annual Festival de Belen, a community art public health festival in the Peruvian Amazon. Festival de Belen organized by The Gesundheit! Institute and Bola Roja brings together clowns, musicians, artists, and doctors from around the world to exercise collaborative social action with the people of Belen, a community sadly characterized by poverty and marginalization. I was one of the one hundred clowns who spend two weeks in Belen. We performed clown turns, paraded down the street, made hospital visits and more. It was a really pivotal moment for me as an artist.
What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?
I absolutely love the surge of female, POC, queer, comedy shows happening in Vancouver right now! One show in particular I’m totally obsessed about is Lady Parts by After Party Theatre. I saw it at the rEvolver Festival this year and I’ve been mad about it ever since. It was smart, provocative, naughty, and rowdy – a shameless celebration of feminism.
If you could sit down with any artist living or not and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?
I would love to have a glass of wine with Carolee Schneeman. She was an extraordinary feminist trail blazer who paved the way for so many female artists. Her multi-disciplinary work exploring female sexuality, gender, and politics influences my artistic work. I wish I could go back to the 1970s and spend a week hanging out with Schneeman in New York.
Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?
Whenever I’m feeling stuck in the heaviness of my own artistic neurosis (which happens quite often) I ask myself, “What is my delight? What am I curious about?” I have to go back to the thing that sparks the most delight and curiosity in me. When I’m in this state of playfulness my mind turns away from fearing what other people might think or the pressure to make ‘good art’ – instead I can relish in the fun of making things! I think as emerging artists we often put pressure on ourselves to prove our worthiness and that pressure can actually prevent us from making anything at all! My advice for emerging artists (and for myself) is to cultivate a healthy relationship with your own creative process.
What is My Name is SUMIKO about? Short blurb.
My Name is SUMIKO is a new clown performance created by New(to)Town Collective (June Fukumura, Davey Calderon, and Avyen von Waldenburg) premiering at the 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival. My Name is SUMIKO interweaves clown turns, J-Pop tunes, and Japanese variety show games into an unstoppably zany, East-meets-West comic experience. Sumiko invites the audience into her dark, twisted, and magical world where she meets Death, falls in Love, and battles her inner Demons. My Name is SUMIKO is a delightful exorcism of our deepest fears, shame, and taboos.
Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Dates/times/venue/ticket links?
My Name is SUMIKO
Fringe @ What Lab (1814 Pandora St.)
Sept. 5th - 6:45pm *1/2 price
Sept. 7th - 5:00pm
Sept. 8th - 8:30pm
Sept. 11th - 6:45pm
Sept. 12th - 8:30pm
Sept.14th - 3:15pm
Sept. 15th - 8:30pm
Warnings: Course language, violence, sexual content, 18+
Juicy detail: I’m one of four shows showcasing new works at Fringe’s new BYOV venue, What Lab! Check out Fringe @ What Lab http://whatlab.ca/fringe-at-wl/ for more details!