Dear Miss Breed (play)
Creators: Joanne Oppenheim
Play about a San Diego librarian who corresponded with incarcerated Japanese American children during World War II. Playwright Joanne Oppenheim adapted Dear Miss Breed from her children's book Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference .
Dear Miss Breed consists of three acts. The first act begins in May of 1941 in the San Diego Public Library where Children's Librarian Clara Breed has established close relationships with many Nisei children. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the children and their families are rounded up and sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center ; as they leave Miss Breed passes out postcards imploring them to write to her. The second act continues as the children are sent on the Poston , Arizona, concentration camp, while the final act covers the resettlement of some inland and the return of others to San Diego, jumping ahead years later to end with a reunion in which Miss Breed is honored.
Relative to the book, the play adds scenes from Breed's perspective as she vocally expresses her support for the children and later sends them numerous packages of books and other gifts while they are incarcerated. A colleague, Helen McNary, is skeptical of Breed's actions and thinks the forced removal is justified. Two scenes in which McNary serves as foil for Breed allow the playwright to bring out the larger issues suggested by the mass incarceration. We also see Breed being harassed by a navy officer who visits the library and by a postal clerk when she repeatedly mails parcels to Poston.
Dear Miss Breed was presented by the Asian Story Theater and the City of San Diego Public Library. It was funded in part by a $60,000 grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program , as well as grants from the San Diego Foundation and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture. As managed by producer/director Andy Lowe, Oppenheim was contracted to adapt her book. A staged reading of the play took place on January 31, 2007, at the Actors Alliance Facility in San Diego. The play premiered at the Lyceum Space Theater, Horton Plaza, on September 16, 2007, and ran through September 30.