Innocent When You Dream (play)

Play by Ken Narasaki centering on a dying eighty-year old Nisei man and his recollections of the World War II years.

Playwright and actor Narasaki was inspired to write the play in part by the death of his own father, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who, like many Nisei, did not talk about his wartime experiences with his children very often. The play was further shaped by a series of readings by the long-time group of friends that included such veteran actors as Sab Shimono, Emily Kuroda, and Sharon Omi. The play was the 2006 winner of the Kumu Kahua Pacific/Rim Playwriting Award. In October 2007, it premiered at the Electric Lodge in Venice, California, directed by Alberto Isaac and staring Shimono as protagonist Dan Yamada.

As the play opens, Dan Yamada is eighty and has had a stroke that will likely kill him. His children—son Merv (played by playwright Narasaki), a college professor, and daughter Joy, a civil rights lawyer (Emily Kuroda)—come to the hospital where Dan, though unable to speak, makes it clear that he wants to be taken off life support and allowed to die. Scenes in the present with Dan, Merv, Joy, and a wise-cracking doctor center on parent-child relationships and end of life issues. These scenes are interspersed with Dan's dreams of his young adulthood centering on Grace Hamamoto, a young women he had met in camp and has never been able to forget, and her friend Frank Fujiyama, a no-no boy whom Dan, a 442nd veteran, unleashes his anger upon.

Innocent When You Dream received strongly positive reviews from David C. Nichols in the Los Angeles Times ("... it brushes with greatness") and Neal Weaver in the L.A. Weekly ("... an eloquent, moving and lingering glance at an intersection of history and memory that has universal application"). Dany Margolies in Backstage rendered a generally positive verdict, praising Shimono's performance, but finding the tone uneven and elements of the staging distracting.[1]

After the month long run at the Electric Lodge, the cast presented a reading of the play at the February 23, 2008 Day of Remembrance event at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.[2]

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Related Articles


For More Information

Innocent When You Dream trailer. YouTube.

Margolies, Dany. Backstage, Oct. 17, 2007.

Narasaki, Ken. Innocent When You Dream. Prick of the Spindle: A Quarterly Online Journal of the Literary Arts 3.2 (2009).

Nichols, David C. "Acting Wrings the Most Out of 'Innocent.'" Los Angeles Times, Oct. 12, 2007.

Tseng, Ada. "Dreams of Our Fathers." UCLA International Institute, Sept. 21, 2007.

Weaver, Neal. LA Weekly, Oct. 8, 2007.

Footnotes

  1. David C. Nichols, "Acting Wrings the Most Out of 'Innocent,'" Los Angeles Times, Oct. 12, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/12/entertainment/et-innocent12; Neal Weaver, LA Weekly, Oct. 8, 2007, http://www.laweekly.com/2007-10-11/stage/theater-reviews-the-drawer-boy-hollywood-hellhouse-max-maven/; Dany Margolies, Backstage, Oct. 17, 2007, http://www.backstage.com/review/la-theater/innocent-when-you-dream/, all accessed on February 4, 2014.
  2. "Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian: Innocent When You Dream, a Play Reading by Ken Narasaki," Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center website, accessed on February 4, 2014 at http://apanews.si.edu/2008/02/23/annual-day-of-remembrance-at-the-smithsonianinnocent-when-you-dream-a-play-reading-by-ken-narasaki/.