Gold Watch (play)

A 1972 play by Momoko Iko that was one of the first to take up the wartime mass removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

Iko, a Nisei from Wapato, Washington, had been incarcerated with her family as a child at the Portland Assembly Center and Heart Mountain before resettling in Chicago, where she grew up. She went on to attain B.A. and M.F.A. degrees at the University of Illinois and the University of Iowa, respectively. An aspiring novelist, she learned of a 1968 playwriting contest put on by the pioneering Asian American Theater company East-West Players in Los Angeles and successfully transformed part of her novel into the play that became Gold Watch.

The domestic drama takes place in the Pacific Northwest between the fall of 1941 and the late spring of 1942. The play focuses on the Murakami family, an Issei/Nisei farm family with two children, ages fourteen and four, along with the Tanakas, who run a store and have a nineteen year old Kibei son, as they prepare for their impending exclusion and incarceration. The main characters are based loosely on her parents.

Gold Watch premiered at the Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles on March 15, 1972, and ran through May 28. It was later produced at the University of Washington in 1976, Seattle's Asian Exclusion Act theater company (1976–77), and Stanford University (1977, 1982, 1987, 1988). A performance of the play was also produced for public television by KCET Los Angeles, airing in November 1976. A excerpt from the play is included in the pioneering literary anthology Aiiieeeee!.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

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For More Information

Iko, Momoko. "Gold Watch." In Unbroken Thread: An Anthology of Plays by Asian American Women. Edited by Roberta Uno. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993 105–53.

Lee, Josephine. Performing Asian America: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

Xu, Wenying. Historical Dictionary of Asian American Literature and Theater. Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Scarecrow Press, 2012. 119.