Dust Storm (play)

One-person play by Rick Foster inspired by the beating of Issei artist Chiura Obata at Topaz in 1943. Originally produced for Duende, a nonprofit that develops plays about history for schools, Dust Storm was most recently produced in 2013 by Colorado's Theatre Esprit Asia (TEA).

The play is narrated by Seiji, a troubled teenaged Kibei from Berkeley. He recounts his difficult life circumstances and contrasts his family life with that of Obata, a Berkeley professor and well-known artist. With the coming of World War II, Seiji and Obata are both expelled from the West Coast and end up incarcerated at Topaz, a concentration camp in Utah. He is accepted to a college on the outside, but because he is a Kibei, he is denied leave by the FBI. Embittered by this experience, he becomes a no-no boy and takes up with other disenchanted youth, eventually helping to set up the attack on Obata. The play is augmented by slides of Obata's camp-era paintings and drawings.

After its 2002 debut, Dust Storm has been performed at various events, including a Day of Remembrance and as part of the programming for 2009 exhibition featuring Obata's work, A Challenge to Democracy. In 2013, it was one of the two debut productions for the new Theatre Esprit Asia, Colorado's first Asian American theater. Directed by Warren Sherrill, the role of Seiji was played by three actors, including Zachary Drake, who originated the role in California. The TEA production received uniformly positive reviews.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

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For More Information

Asakawa, Gil. "Dale Li Vividly Brings to Life Japanese American Tragedy in 'Dust Storm.'" Nikkei View: The Asian American Blog. June 13, 2013.

"Dust Storm." Duende Programs website.

Kennedy, Lisa. "Theater Review: 'Dust Storm' an Assured Start to New Theater Esprit Asia Theater Company." Denver Post, June 13, 2013.

Morrill, Jan. "#NaBloPoMo Day 5: Theater Esprit Asia's 'Dust Storm.'" The Red Kimono blog. June 7, 2013. http://theredkimono.com/tag/dale-li/.

Wittman, Juliet. "Dust Storm Reimagines Japanese Internment Through a Teen's Eyes." Westword, June 13, 2013.