Hold These Truths (play)

One-person play by Jeanne Sakata centering on Gordon Hirabayashi's challenge of World War II measures against Japanese Americans. Debuting at East West Players in Los Angeles in 2007 under the title Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, the ninety-minute play enjoyed a second major production in New York in 2012 as Hold These Truths.

Los Angeles based playwright Sakata was a successful actress both on stage and in movies and television when she saw the 1992 documentary film A Personal Matter: Gordon Hirabayashi vs. the United States on public television, inspiring her to write her first play about Hirabayshi. (There had been an earlier play about Hirabayashi, Rick Shiomi's Point of Order: Hirabayashi V. U.S.) Finding herself in Seattle for an acting job, she took the opportunity to do research at the University of Washington where she read some of his wartime correspondence and other contemporaneous material on his case, and she later interviewed Hirabayashi and some of his friends. As she told Ann Chow, Hirabayashi, "sort of took me under his wing and treated me like one of his students, encouraging me to read the works of experienced playwrights and consult them, recommending research I might benefit from, even urging me to invent conversations and details when he couldn’t remember them!"[1] She continued to work on the play for a decade. After one her acclaimed performance as Master Hua in Chan Yew's play Red at East West Players in 2002, a performance for which Sakata won an LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress, she was commissioned in 2003 to finish the Hirabayashi play by Chan Yew, who was head of Los Angeles' Asian Theater Workshop at the Center Theater Group.[2] She further developed the play at the Mark Taper Forum Writers' Workshop.

Hold These Truths features a single actor who plays Hirabayashi. Beginning with an older Hirabayashi looking back, we then meet the younger Hirabayashi, who takes us though his early life and his challenge of the curfew and exclusion orders in 1942. In telling the story, the actor portrays Hirabayashi, as well as 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 who he is and why he has hitchhiked down the coast for his own imprisonment.

Under its original title, Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, Sakata's play premiered at East West Players in November 2007, directed by Jessica Kubzansky and starring Ryun Yu as Hirabayashi. A shorter version of the play toured Los Angeles schools as part of the East West Players Youth Theater Tour in January 2008, starring Marty Yu, and in February 2010, featuring Blake Kushi. The Epic Theatre Ensemble mounted the second major production of the play—now titled Hold These Truths—at New York's 14th Street YMCA Theatre, debuting on October 21, 2012. Lisa Rothe directed this production and Joel de la Fuente starred. De la Fuente's close friend and former classmate Daniel Dae Kim, one of the stars of the 2000s version of the TV show Hawaii Five-0, saw the show in New York and was inspired to bring the Epic Theatre Ensemble production to Honolulu, where it debuted at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth on February 21, 2013.[3] This version of the play also had a short run at the ACT Allen Theatre in Seattle in 2014; the success of that run led to a mainstage production at the ACT directed by Kubzansky and starring Yu in the summer of 2015. In addition to these main engagements, various versions of the play have been performed at colleges, Days of Remembrance, benefits, and other events.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Related Articles


For More Information

Hold These Truths official site. http://www.holdthesetruths.info/Site/Welcome.html.

Chow, Ann. "JQ&A with Playwright Jeanne Sakata on 'Hold These Truths.'" JETwit.com. October 13, 2012.

Dawn's Light at East West Players website.

Hold These Truths at ACT website.

Hold These Truths Facebook page.

"Hold These Truths: The Gordon Hirabayashi Case." Speech by Jeanne Sakata at the Asian American/Asian Research Institute, City University of New York, Sept. 28, 2012.

Ishizuka, LiAnn. "The Light of Defiance." Asia Pacific Arts, November 2, 2007.

Ohata, Laura. "Sakata's Play About Gordon Hirabayashi, 'Hold These Truths.'" Northwest Asian Weekly, July 18, 2014.

Jeanne Sakata website. http://www.jeannesakata.com.

Sakata, Jeanne. "The Journey of Dawn's Light: Telling the Story of Gordon Hirabayashi." Discover Nikkei website, November 8, 2007.

Reviews

East West Players (Los Angeles)

Kennicott, Leigh. "Story of a Fighter." Pasadena Weekly, Nov. 22, 2007.

Roxworthy, Emily. Review of Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi." Theatre Journal 60.4 (Dec. 2008): 661–64.

"Say Can You See." theatertimes.org., November 2007.

Segal, Lewis. "One Man's Losing Battle Against Racism." Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2007.

Stanley, Steven. Review of Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi. Stage Scene LA, November 7, 2007.

Epic Theatre Ensemble (New York, Honolulu, and Seattle)

Berger, John. "Review: 'Truths' A One-Man Tour de Force." Honolulu Star-Advertiser Pulse, Feb. 23, 2013.

Berson, Misha. "'Hold These Truths': Absorbing Account of Civil Disobedience." Seattle Times, Aug. 1, 2014.

Hamaker, Susan Miyagi. "'Hold These Truths'—The Nail That Sticks Up Becomes a Civil Rights Hero." JapanCulture NYC, October 23, 2012.

Hochner, Julia. New York Theatre Review, June 6, 2013.

Santilli, Peter. Review: Hirabayashi Remembered in Eloquent Play. AP: The Big Story, Oct. 22, 2012.

Footnotes

  1. Ann Chow, "JQ&A with Playwright Jeanne Sakata on 'Hold These Truths,'" JETwit.com, October 13, 2012, accessed on December 9, 2013 at http://jetwit.com/wordpress/2012/10/13/jq-magazine-jqa-with-playwright-jeanne-sakata-on-hold-these-truths/.
  2. Emily Roxworthy, Review of Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi," Theatre Journal 60.4 (Dec. 2008): 661–64.
  3. Diane Lee, " Daniel Dae Kim brings 'Hold These Truths' to Honolulu," Honolulu Magazine, February 2013, accessed on December 9, 2013 at http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/February-2013/Daniel-Dae-Kim/. According to columnist Guy Aoki, Kim brought the producers of Hawaii Five-0 to the show, and they were subsequently inspired to produce an episode of the show built around the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans that aired on December 13, 2013. Guy Aoki, "Into the Next Stage: An Important 'Hawaii Five-0' episode to Support," Rafu Shimpo, Dec. 5, 2013, accessed on December, 2013 at http://www.rafu.com/2013/12/into-the-next-stage-an-important-hawaii-five-o-episode-to-support/.