Letters to Eve (play)
Musical play that juxtaposes the experiences of a Japanese American family in Manzanar with that of an African American musician and his Jewish girlfriend held in captivity in a Nazi prison camp.
As the play begins, a Japanese American family—young adult son Ray, his father Ken, mother Chinatsu, uncle Fumio and a baby sister—is marched off to an American concentration camp. Meanwhile, in Europe, we meet Archie Kyle, a well-known jazz and blues musician who had been living and playing in France. Dierk, a "friendly" Nazi official who is a jazz fan approaches Archie offering lenient treatment for him and his fellow prisoner girlfriend Eden in exchange for guitar lessons. Meanwhile at Manzanar, Ray is encouraged by his best friend Maki to approach Eve, a young woman he has been smitten with. After various misfires, he finally works up the courage to approach her, and to his delight, finds she is interested in him as well. In the Nazi camp, Archie's deal is soon jeopardized when another Nazi official becomes suspicious and earmarks him for brutal medical tests. At Manzanar, Ray and Maki are drawn into the turmoil of the " loyalty questionnaire ," with the patriotic Maki eventually prevailing on Ray to answer "yes-yes" and to volunteer for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . In basic training at Camp Shelby, while the other men gamble, Ray diligently writes long letters to Eve, but refuses to send them until he feels he has "earned" the right to do. When the 442nd are dispatched to battle in Europe, the two parallel stories eventually collide in Europe.
The scenes in Manzanar (and involving the 442nd) alternate with the the scenes in the Nazi camp. With one exception, the characters in these two story lines never meet. In addition to the many songs, the characters also talk in rhyme.
Playwright Daniel Sugimoto—who also wrote the music and lyrics to the songs—was inspired to write the play by his grandmother, Midori, who shared her experiences in a War Relocation Authority -administered camp with him. While studying jazz in preparation for writing the songs, he learned of the popularity of jazz in Germany at the time and of African American prisoners in the Nazi camps, which inspired the storyline involving the American musician.
The play had its "world premiere workshop event" at the Japanese Cultural Institute in Gardena, California, on September 17, 2016. Its premiere as a full production took place at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica, California, on November 10, 2016. It had two subsequent month-long runs at the same venue, May 25 to June 18, 2017 and November 16 to December 17, 2017.