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Browse > Media Type > Plays

50 articles

Tondemonai-Never Happen! (play)

  • Plays

Tondemonai—Never Happen!, a two-act play written and directed by Soon-Tek Oh (then referred to as Soon-Taik Oh) that premiered in Los Angeles in 1970, is a theatrical drama that portrays the experience of Koji Murayama, a Nisei who experiences flashbacks to his traumatic wartime experience in the Manzanar camp. Tondemonai is notable not only as the first professionally-staged theatrical work to center on the wartime confinement of Japanese Americans, but for its forward-looking discussion of race and sexuality.

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The Heart No Longer Silent (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Quest for discovery, Power of the past, Evils of racism, Will to survive
  • No availability

Storytelling performance with digital imagery by storyteller Megumi and artist Elaine Sayoko Yoneoka. Funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, The Heart No Longer Silent: Stories with Images from the Japanese American Internment of World War II was performed several times in Central and Northern California in 2002.

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Letters to Eve (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Expression through art, Facing darkness, Love and sacrifice, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • No availability

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.

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Japanese American Detention Camps: Stories of Strength and Hope (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Quest for discovery, Power of the past, Evils of racism, Will to survive
  • Limited availability

Storytelling performance by Megumi in which she tells stories of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans from the perspective of various characters. Based on interviews with Japanese American former inmates, she has been performing Japanese American Detention Camps since 1997.

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12-1-A (play)

  • Plays
  • Available

A play by Wakako Yamauchi that was first produced in 1982. Set in the concentration camp in Poston, Arizona—the same camp the author was incarcerated in—from May 1942 to July 1943, the play follows several Japanese American families at Poston as their characters grapple with the loyalty questionnaire, military service, and possible resettlement. The title of the play refers to the camp address of the Tanaka family, block 12, barracks 1, unit A. Yamauchi wrote the play while the Rockefeller Playwright in Residence at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It premiered on March 11, 1982, at East West Players in Los Angeles, the third of four plays in their "Internment Camp Series". Subsequent productions include Asian American Theater Co, San Francisco (1982); Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu (1990); University of California, Los Angeles (1992); and California State University, Los Angeles (2012).

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The Camp Dance: The Music and The Memories (play)

  • Plays

Musical play set in an unidentified Japanese American concentration camp that is centered on the high school dances that took place in the camps as one of the centers of social life for teenagers. The play was written by Soji Kashiwagi and produced by the Grateful Crane ensemble in 2003. Grants from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program supported performances of The Camp Dance in eight California cities in 2004, as well as the production of a soundtrack CD. As part of the show, the cast performs a variety of popular songs from the period. In some shows, Mary Nomura, a popular Nisei singer known as the "Songbird of Manzanar" has performed with the cast. Since its inception, The Camp Dance in its original two-hour version and a fifty-minute version has been performed at a variety of venues and events in California and the West including the 2006 Japanese ...

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Conjunto (play)

  • Plays

Play by Oliver Mayer that explores interactions between Japanese, Mexican, and Filipino American farmers and farm workers in California during the World War II years. Min Yamada, a reluctant Nisei farmer in Burbank who dreams of city life, is confronted with the prospect of losing his farm when he and all other West Coast Japanese Americans are forcibly removed to inland concentration camps. He decides to sell the farm to his trusted foreman and friend, Genevevo, a Mexican American. He also arranges for his Issei wife, Shoko, to remain behind, disguised as a Mexican laborer. Returning from incarceration three years later, he finds that much has changed.

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Gila River (play)

  • Plays

Play by Lane Nishikawa, set in the Gila River, Arizona, concentration camp, that tells the story of the Wakabayashi family. Told in a flashback after Nisei daughter Mitsue revisits the site in 1972, the play incorporates the arrest and internment of the Issei patriarch, the military service (in the Military Intelligence Service) of a baseball loving son, and relationships with Native Americans on whose land the camp had been built. The play premiered in 1999 at the Gila River Arts and Crafts Center and has been subsequently performed at the World Theater at California State University at Monterey Bay and the Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles.

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Gold Watch (play)

  • Plays

A 1972 play by Momoko Iko that was one of the first to take up the wartime mass removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (play)

  • Plays

Theatrical adaptation of the best selling novel by Jamie Ford, first produced by the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle in 2012. The play proved very popular with audiences and was extended twice.

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Justice at War (play)

  • Plays

Play based on the Mitsuye Endo case developed by Theatre Espresso for performance in schools. A short play that takes place in the courtroom, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese Internment Camps is a fictionalized version of Endo Supreme Court case, including as characters former head of the Western Defense Command General John DeWitt, one of the main architects of the forced exclusion of Japanese Americans; Endo's lawyer James Purcell; Solicitor General Charles Fahy, who prosecuted the case for the government; Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone; and Mitsuye Endo. (In the actual Endo case, neither DeWitt, who had by then been replaced as head of the Western Defense Command, nor Endo herself, appeared before the court.) The student audience plays the role of the judges and is asked to decide the questions posed by the case.

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Laughter and False Teeth (play)

  • Plays

One-act play by Hiroshi Kashiwagi first produced in 1954 that is likely the first produced play set in the Japanese American concentration camps. The play was revived years later by Asian American theater companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Santa Anita '42 (play)

  • Plays

One of the earliest plays to depict the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, playwright Allan Knee's Santa Anita '42 premiered off-Broadway in 1975 and was revived in 1986–87.

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Tachinoki (play)

  • Plays

Play by acclaimed playwright Robert Schenkkan based on the life of Sumi Seo, a Nisei who was sixteen when she and her family were forcibly removed from their farm in San Pedro, California, during with World War II and incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Jerome, Arkansas concentration camp. The play opened in the 1987–88 season of the Ensemble Studio Theater in Hollywood, California and premiered on November 12, 1987. Seo worked closely with Schenkkan and director Heidi Helen Davis in the writing and production of the play. The cast included Diana Tanaka as Seo, Amy Hill and Jim Ishida as her parents, and Darrell Kunitomi as her brother Masa. Director Davis, whose Nisei mother had been incarcerated at Minidoka, described the play as "a combination of Brecht, living newspaper, agitprop, and some dramatic scenes."[1] Playwright Schenkkan later won a Pulitzer Prize for The Kentucky Cycle (1992) ...

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Strands (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Power of the past
  • No availability

One-woman show written and performed by D.H. Naomi Quinones that centers on her Japanese Peruvian grandfather's World War II internment story and her discovery of it. Kiichiro Yoshida was a Japanese Peruvian journalist who was one of over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans interned in the United States during World War II. Separated from his family, he was not allowed to return to Peru at the end of the war and was instead deported to Japan. Quinones tells the story through video, spoken word poetry, and martial arts. Strands was commissioned by the Asian American Theater Company in association with the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center and was funded in part by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. The sixty-minute performance premiered at he SomARTS Cultural Center in San Francisco on May 16, 2002.

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Little Women (A Multicultural Transposition) (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Coming of age, Desire to escape, Family – blessing or curse, Female roles, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • No availability

Play by Velina Hasu Houston that reimagines Louis May Alcott's 19th century novel Little Women, setting it in early postwar Los Angeles with four Japanese American sisters at its center.

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Valley of the Heart (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Drama, History
  • Change versus tradition, Everlasting love, Family – blessing or curse, Love and sacrifice, Patriotism – positive side or complications

Play by Luis Valdez centered on two farm families—one Japanese American and one Mexican American—in Cupertino, California, during World War II.

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A Question of Loyalty/The Betrayed (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Limited availability

Play authored by Nisei playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi set in Tule Lake and centered on the dilemmas brought on by the loyalty questionnaire. The main characters are Tak Fujimoto, a country boy loosely based on the playwright, and Grace Tamura, a sophisticated city girl from Seattle, who fall in love in the concentration camp. But they are divided by the loyalty questions and go their separate ways. The play's second act is set forty years later, when Grace, a widowed redress activist from Chicago, visits Tak, a divorced farmer in Fresno, prior to a camp reunion.

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Block 8 (play)

  • Plays

Two character play set in Topaz by Matthew Ivan Bennett. A production of the Plan-B Theatre Company of Salt Lake City, Utah, Block 8 premiered on February 20, 2009, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Studio Theatre. The play centers on Ken, a twenty-three year old Nisei from San Francisco who had been a student at the University of California at Berkeley prior to being forcibly removed with his family and incarcerated at Topaz, and Ada, a Mormon woman from Salt Lake City with a son fighting the Pacific who becomes the librarian at Topaz. Initially wary of each other, the two form a surrogate mother/son relationship as Ken struggles with the decision on whether or not to enlist.

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Christmas in Camp (play)

  • Plays

Musical play set in a Japanese American concentration camp at Christmastime. Christmas in Camp, by playwright Dom Magwili, was the second play in East West Players' 1981–82 season—entitled "Kidoairaku"—in which all four plays centered on the Japanese American incarceration story. It premiered December 10, 1981. The central character is Hannah Sasaki, a disabled teenage girl in camp, whose letters to an older sister who had escaped camp through "voluntary evacuation" propel the story. Hannah ends up organizing a Christmas show to improve morale in the camp. The show, consisting of popular Christmas songs, is then performed for both the camp and theater audiences.

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Citizen 13559 (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8

Play for children by Naomi Iizuka, based on the children's book The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg. The story focuses on the wartime experiences of twelve-year-old Ben Uchida, whose family is incarcerated at the fictional "Mirror Lake" camp in Wisconsin. After workshop productions at the Kennedy Center and the Mark Taper Forum's Asian Theatre Workshop, the hour-long play premiered in March 2006 as part of the Kennedy Center Family Theater's first season.

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The Gate of Heaven (play)

  • Plays

Play by Lane Nishikawa and Victor Talmadge about the lifelong friendship between a Nisei who helped liberate a Nazi death camp as a member of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and a Holocaust survivor. The main characters, Kiyoshi "Sam" Yamamoto and Leon Ehrlich, are based on the lives of the playwrights' fathers. The play begins in April 1945 and follows the two men over the course of their lives. It was first produced at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego on March 5, 1996. Nishikawa adapted the play into a short dramatic film titled When We Were Warriors, Part I, which he directed and starred in alongside Talmadge.

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Innocent When You Dream (play)

  • Plays

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

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Point of Order: Hirabayashi vs. United States (play)

  • Plays

Dramatic rendering of Gordon Hirabayashi's challenge of the wartime curfew and exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast by Japanese Canadian playwright R.A. Shiomi. The play debuted at the Asian American Theater Workshop in San Francisco in 1983. Scenes from a performance of the play appear in Steven Okazaki's documentary film on the wartime legal cases, Unfinished Business (1985). A second play on Hirabayashi, Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths, premiered at East West Players in Los Angeles in 2007.

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Nihonjin Face (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Circle of life, Evils of racism, Progress – real or illusion, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

Short play for school audiences by Janet Hayakawa and Tere Martínez that juxtaposes the Japanese American incarceration with the Civil Rights Movement and anti-immigrant sentiment in the present.

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