Citizen 13559 (play)

Play for children by Naomi Iizuka, based on the children's book The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg. The story focuses on the wartime experiences of twelve-year-old Ben Uchida, whose family is incarcerated at the fictional "Mirror Lake" camp in Wisconsin. After workshop productions at the Kennedy Center and the Mark Taper Forum's Asian Theatre Workshop, the hour-long play premiered in March 2006 as part of the Kennedy Center Family Theater's first season.

Playwright Iizuka (b. 1965) has written over twenty-five plays and is a professor of dramatic arts at the University of California at San Diego. She is the daughter of a Japanese economist and an American Latina attorney and grew up in Japan, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Theater scholar Emily Roxworthy points out two key differences between the story as told in the play and that told in the source book. In the play, Ben's father, Masao, an optometrist, is shattered by the incarceration experience and hangs himself in the barracks. In the book, Masao is initially interned, eventually rejoining the family, but does not die. Also in the play, a white teacher, Miss Kroll, has her role dramatically enlarged and becomes a sympathetic figure and mentor to the boy. Her husband, who had been killed in the war, also appears in the play as a ghost who speaks with Ben.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Related Articles

For More Information

Colborn-Roxworthy, Emily. "Trading 'Earnest Drama' for Prophecy: Performing Japanese American Internment after 9/11". Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 20.2 (Spring 2006): 25–48.

Kennedy Center website:

Xu, Wenying. Historical Dictionary of Asian American Literature and Theater. Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Scarecrow Press, 2012. 118.

Wren, Celia. "In 'Citizen 13559,' Innocents Abroad at Home". Washington Post, March 15, 2006.