Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hold These Truths @ the Lyric Stage through 12/31

It's rare to have plays on stage in Boston with Japanese American themes and actors so I was surprised to hear that Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths, is on stage for the month of December at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Founded in 1974, the Lyric Stage is Boston's oldest professional theater. They produce "intimate, challenging and entertaining theatre" in their 234 seat theater.

The play tells the story of Gordon Hirabayashi, a nisei Japanese American who defied the US government's curfew and evacuation orders. Instead of reporting for evacuation to an "assembly center", he turned himself in to the FBI and was arrested and convicted. Hirabayashi appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi v. United States) where the order was upheld. In the 1980s his convictions were finally overturned by the U.S. District Court in Seattle and the Federal Appeals Court after misconduct in the solicitor general's office was discovered.

Boston-based Michael Hisamoto stars as Gordon Hirabayashi. In the spring, he will be playing Mike Masaoka in SpeakEasy Stage Company's upcoming run of Allegiance (May 4 - June 2, 2018). Although Hold These Truths is ostensibly a one-person show, the play borrows the kabuki method known as kuroko (黒子, also romanized as "kurogo") which uses stage crew dressed in black who assist in set changes and moving of props during the performance and who may also play minor roles. 

The New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is hosting an outing to see Hold These Truths this Sunday, December 17th at 3pm. Dr. Paul Watanabe, Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston, will lead a post-show discussion as JACL members share stories of their families' experiences during WWII. There are still a few tickets available for Sunday's performance. If you can't make it this Sunday, the play runs through the end of the month.


Hold These Truths 

Directed by Benny Sato Ambush 
Choreography by Jubilith Moore
Featuring Michael Hisamoto*, with Khloe Alice Lin, Gary Thomas Ng*, Samantha Richert*
Approximately 100 minutes with no intermission

Told through flashbacks, Hirabayashi takes us through his early life, challenging the curfew and exclusion orders in 1942. In a virtuosic turn, Hisamoto portrays not only Hirabayashi, but also his parents, college friends, lawyers, military leaders, Supreme Court justices, Hopi Indians he meets in prison, and the Arizona prison boss who can't figure out why he has hitchhiked down the California coast for his own imprisonment. His storytelling is assisted by a trio of kurogo — traditional Japanese stage hands — choreographed by Jubilith Moore and directed by Benny Sato Ambush.

He may have lost his case when he was alive, but Hirabayashi, a Quaker ("God is in each heart, not in a church") and a University of Washington student who was active in the YMCA leadership training program, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by President Barack Obama. Paving the way to Hirabayashi's ultimate victory, legal historian Peter Irons discovered myriad military documents, letters, and memos admitting that confining Japanese Americans to camps had not been a necessary security measure: The camps, they implied, were created out of hysteria and racism. Full of theatricality and humanity, Hold These Truths celebrates resistance and offers startling parallels for contemporary politics.

Friday, December 1 - Sunday, December 31, 2017
See website for details.

Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA 02116

Tickets range from $25-$73 and if you use the coupon code BAAFF (via the Boston Asian American Film Festival) it will get you $20 off per ticket. (FYI, I've heard some reports of some people having difficulty with the code.)

Lyric Stage also offers $10 cash student rush tickets. See website for details.

Note for those who plan to be in the New York City area: The Sheen Center has a two week run of Hold These Truths through December 20th, starring Joel de la Fuente, who plays Inspector Kido in Amazon's The Man in the High Castle

Further Reading

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pikaichi is closing... for now

It seems I’m a bit behind on Boston ramen news. I went to Pikaichi for lunch on Friday and found out that they are closing on Sunday, December 17th. 😢 They announced the closing on their Facebook page and website just before Thanksgiving. Apparently the landlord raised the rent significantly and owner Taka Akatsu decided that he could no longer stay at the Super 88 location.

"We recently received a notice of a major rent increase from the landlord. After careful consideration, we have discovered that we won’t be able to sustain our business with the increased rent."

Taka-san and his wife, Ritsuko-san, opened Pikaichi in March 2011 after selling Café Mami in Porter Square to Carlos Garcia (who now also co-owns Ittoku, Wafu-Ya, and Yume Ga Aru Kara) and buying Ken's Ramen House from Ken Kojima. Pikaichi's menu has gone through a few changes over the years but the ramen has remained largely the same and their prices have remained comparatively low for Boston ramen, making it a popular spot for college students and homesick Japanese expats. They're also the only ramenya in Boston to have free parking which has made it a lot easier for people to come from all over to the area to eat there.

In an era in which Japanese restaurants in the US have largely dispensed with yelling「 いっらしゃいませ !  」 ("irrashaimase"), the standard greeting at all businesses in Japan, Pikaichi brought that tradition back and requires all staff to learn some basic ramenya Japanese to communicate with each other about how many customers are in the house and what dishes have been ordered and entered into the POS system. Although the layout of the space is more like a restaurant than a ramenya, the friend who first recommended Pikaichi to me told me that she felt like she had stepped into Japan for the brief time she was there. Their staff are uncharacteristically welcoming and cheerful compared with the bored indifference of waitstaff at many other Boston area Asian restaurants. Long-time employees know the regular customers if not by name, then definitely by face, although they work hard to make everyone feel welcome.

Staff told me that the hope is to reopen at another location within a few months but no word on where. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restaurant opening that went smoothly – construction and permitting issues can cause delays – so I expect it will be a while before we can have Pikaichi ramen and curry again.

Pikaichi's farewell message to customers

If you’re able to stop by before the last day, keep in mind that wait times are likely to be longer than usual. Make sure to put your name on the list that is on the clipboard just inside the door. I’ve been going for lunch at 1pm with friends for a while and we usually don’t have much of a wait but yesterday we waited for quite a while. The staff told me they have been very busy since the closing was announced. If you can afford it, please consider tipping generously. The closing was completely unexpected so many staff may not have any idea what they will be doing for work during the closure, which comes just before the holidays. Some of them are long-time employees of Pikaichi.

Pikaichi's hours for the last 2 weeks at Allston location

Pikaichi's last day will be Sunday, December 17th, serving lunch only from 11:30am - 4:00pm. You can follow them on Facebook or check their website for updates on the new location.

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