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

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