Old Man River (play)

Title Old Man River
Date 1998
Director Allan Holzman
Producer Cynthia Gates Fujikawa; Allan Hozman; Lisa Joe; Seemah Wilder; Bekah Wright
Writer Cynthia Gates Fujikawa
Starring Jerry Fujikawa; Cynthia Gates Fujikawa
Music Susan Justin
Cinematography Allan Holzman
Editing Allan Holzman
Runtime 74 minutes
IMDB Old Man River

One-woman play about the playwright's search for the truth about her actor father's life story. Jerry Fujikawa was a successful Nisei actor after World War II who worked steadily in character roles in movies and television and who did well enough to own a home and put three children through college. But after his death in 1983, playwright and performer Cynthia Gates Fujikawa found a picture of her father with a woman who is not her mother and a little girl who looks like her, but is not. Old Man River documents her search for her father's history, in which his wartime incarceration at Manzanar and stint in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team play a key role.

Playwright Fujikawa pursued a career in acting after college and joined San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater for two years, then started her own theater company where she began writing about her father. When she moved to New York in 1993, she continued to develop the piece as a resident artist at Mabou Mines and the New York Theater Workshop summer retreat. The play premiered at the New Victory Theater in New York in 1997 and had an engagement in Los Angeles at Theater West the following year. The one-woman performance is augmented by the use of period photographs, film clips from her father's acting career, and other multimedia elements, and is divided into two acts. The title of the play comes from the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II song that Jerry Fujikawa often sang at parties to comical effect, but that takes on a different meaning in the context of his life as revealed in the play. Fujikawa worked with filmmaker Allan Holzman to make a filmed version of the play that was released in 1998.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Brandes, Philip. "'Old Man': Stream of Many Memories." Los Angeles Times, Feb. 6, 1998.

"Cyndy Fuj's Vaudville Family #6: Cynthia Fujikawa!" Travalance blog.

Graeber, Laurel. "For Children." New York Times, Apr. 4, 1997.