Team Sunshine makes comedy from tragedy

Team Sunshine rehearses for the show.  Credit: Ryan Collard
Team Sunshine rehearses for the show.
Credit: Ryan Collard

Whether glued to the television during the pursuit of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects or moved by the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, most of us can sympathize with Makoto Hirano’s feelings as he watched the March 2011 disaster in Japan unfold from half a world away: “There’s something huge and sad happening in the world right now and I can’t do anything about it, but I can totally watch it in HD.”

The ability to experience the world’s calamities in real time is at the root of “JapanAmerica Wonderwave,” the new comedic dance-theater show from Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. The company consists of Hirano, Benjamin Camp and Alex Torra, who all met while working with Philly’s Pig Iron Theatre Company — and who share that company’s love of physicality and blending the cerebral and the silly.

“We challenge each other just right,” Hirano says. “We push each other’s buttons, but we’re really just three sensitive dudes in a room making art and within 10 minutes of getting into a super-heated fight, we’re thankful that we got into that fight. Somehow it works.” Team Sunshine’s core trio rotate taking the lead on projects, and Hirano’s turn came just as Japan was thrust into the headlines.

For Hirano, who was born in Japan but left for the States when he was only four months old, the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown felt both terribly close and impossibly distant. “This thing was happening that I’m so connected to yet feels so far away,” he says. “With digital media, we can see tragedies happening on the other side of the planet and feel worse, but we have no tools to make ourselves feel better.”

One tool that Hirano found was dance, which enabled him to find some joy in a show about profoundly dark themes. “Dancing is fun, dancing is beautiful, and dancing is something that can save the world,” he says, laughing. “I would never say that out loud in a large group, but it’s something that I secretly believe. In our age, art-makers can’t look at anything without irony shades on, so it makes me feel great to believe that someone can go around the planet and dance and make people happy.”


If you go

“JapanAmerica Wonderwave”
May 2-12
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American St.


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