The Pink Dress (play)

Children's puppet show that tells the story of a girl incarcerated with her family at Amache. Los Angeles-based playwright and Triumvirate Pi Theater Artistic Director Leslie K. Gray based the play on a story her mother, Tsuki Maruyama, told her about her childhood at Amache. By collaborating with friend and puppeteer Beth Peterson and visiting Amache with her mother, Gray came up with the concept for the play. Returning to Los Angeles, the pair collaborated with other puppeteers Sam Hale, Jamie Kim and Masanari Kawahara on the design and the concept of the show. (All served as puppeteers in the show's premiere engagement).

Main character Tsuki, like Gray's mother—a teenager from Los Angeles held at Amache, compares inmates there to ants she sees on the barracks wall, viewed as indistinguishable by camp authorities. When her older sister visits the camp from New York, she is wearing a pink polka dot dress that Tsuki is taken by; upon her return, her sister sends Tsuki the dress. Tsuki then decides to wear the dress to her junior high school graduation, despite orders that the students must where their drab uniforms. The story is told using bunraku-style puppets that are manipulated by black garbed puppeteers. The puppets themselves are made with styrofoam bodies with papier-mache extremities, and shadow scenes are used to depict the background elements of life in camp. A narrator voices all of the characters, and there is an original live music score by Michael A. Gray.

The Pink Dress premiered at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, June 4–18, 2005. It was subsequently produced by the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater in Minneapolis, November 5–20, 2005. Since then, it has been a touring production for the Music Center of Los Angeles, available for performances at schools and other venues. In 2008, a children's book version of the story authored by Gray was published.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Related Articles

For More Information

Gray, Leslie, and Hale, Sam. "The Pink Dress: Converging Paths Create Inspiring Theatre." The Puppetry Journal 56.4 (Summer 2005), 25–27.

Kitashima-Gray, Leslie. The Pink Dress: A Story from the Japanese American Internment. Bloomington, Ind.: Xlibris, 2008.

The Pink Dress at The Music Center of Los Angeles website, "Curriculum Connection" for the play at The Music Center site,

The Pink Dress at Triumvirate Pi website. Video of highlights from a performance of the play at

Wada, Karen. "Camp Revival," Los Angeles Magazine, June 2005, 48–56.