Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Reading of Jeanne Sakata’s Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi Starring Joel de la Fuente on February 22 in New York

Jeanne Sakata Photo by Chris Komuro

Jeanne Sakata Photo by Chris Komuro

This afternoon, I had a delightful brunch with playwright and award-winning actress Jeanne Sakata and her husband Tim at Marseille in New York. She just finished participating in the Lark’s 2010 Winter Writers’ Retreat, developing her new play At Thirteen, and tomorrow night, The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College is presenting her play Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, directed by Lisa Rothe and featuring Joel de la Fuente, as the inaugural staged reading in the First Throws Play Reading Series. Inspired by a true story, Dawn’s Light takes place in Seattle during World War II, where University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi is agonizing over U.S. government orders to forcibly remove and mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. As he fights to reconcile his country’s betrayal with his passionate belief in the U.S. Constitution, Gordon journeys toward a greater understanding of America’s triumphs — and a confrontation with its failures.

First Throws is John Jay’s first playwright salon, presenting new theatrical works and readings in a casual setting. First Throws presents new works that examine issues of justice with an artistic perspective. The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College is located at 899 Tenth Avenue in New York. The reading which is free and open to the public, begins at 7pm. RSVP to

Joel De La Fuente as Gordon Hirabayashi in Dawn's Light

Joel De La Fuente as Gordon Hirabayashi in Dawn's Light

Sakata makes her playwriting debut with her solo play, Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, which received its world premiere in November 2007 at East West Players, co-presented by the UCLA Department of Asian American Studies, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Japanese American National Museum. Dawn’s Light was recently workshopped at the New York Theatre Workshop’s August 2009 Dartmouth Residency, and was chosen by the Epic Theatre Ensemble and the Lark Play Development Center for their first collaborative public reading. Dawn’s Light was the also inspiration and theatrical centerpiece for the 2009 civil rights symposium on the Hirabayashi case at the University of Tennessee, Civil Liberties, National Security and the Legacies of the Japanese Removal and Incarceration. An accomplished actress in stage, film and television, Sakata has been honored with the LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress for her acclaimed portrayal of Master Hua in Chay Yew’s Red at East West Players.

Lisa Rothe recently became the Director of Off-Site Programs and Partnerships at the Lark Play Development Center. She is passionate about new work and has workshopped, developed and directed many new plays. Recent credits include: Interpreting William by James Still (Indiana Repertory); Looking for the Pony by Andrea Lepcio (Synchronicity Performance Group @ Seven Stages in Atlanta); Penelope by Ellen McLaughlin and composer Sarah Kirkland Snider (Getty Villa, Gallatin School in NYC, Princeton University); Couldn’t Say by Christopher Wall (MITF – Best Director Award) as well as productions for NYMF and SPF. She also received an EST/Sloan Foundation grant with composer Kim Sherman and librettist Margaret Vandenburg for work on Ada, a new opera. Guest Director: NYU Graduate Acting, the Juilliard School and Yale School of Drama. Alum of the Women’s Project Director’s Lab as well as a Drama League alum & Fox Fellow. MFA: NYU Graduate Acting.

Most recently, Joel de la Fuente has appeared onstage in Chiori Miyagawa’s I Have Been to Hiroshima, Mon Amour directed by Jean Wagner (Ohio Theatre) and as Ariel in The Tempest (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ). On film and television, he has recently concluded working on the feature film “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon, as well as appearing in his ninth season on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Selected New York theatrical credits include: Ivanov in Ivanov (Mint Theater/NAATCO, Jonathan Bank, dir.); The Downtown Plays (Tribeca Theater Festival, John Rando, dir.); Claudio in Beatrice and Benedict with the New York Philharmonic (conducted by Sir Colin Davis); Fuenteovejuna (David Herskovitz, dir.); Vershinin in The Three Sisters (Mud/Bone Theatre Collective); The Square (Lisa Petersen, dir.); America Dreaming (Michael Mayer, dir.); Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (NYSF, Adrian Hall, dir.). Joel is an alumnus oF Brown University and the Graduate Acting Program at N.Y.U.

Since opening its doors in 1988, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater has been an invaluable cultural resource for John Jay College and the larger New York City community. Under the new direction of Executive Director Shannon R. Mayers, the Theater is dedicated to the creation and presentation of performing arts programming of all disciplines with a special focus on how the artistic imagination can shed light on the many perceptions of justice in our society. The Theater has hosted prestigious events for Lincoln Center Festival, Great Performances, Julliard, Alvin Ailey and numerous television specials for HBO and Comedy Central.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit

For more information, visit

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Lia Chang  Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, VIBE, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
A night out with Gordana Rashovich, Flora Goforth in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
André De Shields Set for World Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep, 3/22-4/10
Photos: De Shields, McClendon, Elisa, Glasco, Nemser, Phillips, Thompson at The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy Reading
Photos of Lion Dancers in Los Angeles Chinatown
Photos: A.B. Cruz III and Lillian Kimura Receive 2011 AALDEF Justice in Action Awards
Photos of Lion Dancers in Los Angeles Chinatown
Photos: Chinese New Year Festival at The Huntington in San Marino
Photos:The Working Theater’s Off-Broadway production of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec at The Clurman
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet,Tracee Chimo opening night of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center
STORIES FROM CHINESE AMERICA: The Arthur Dong Collection, Vol. 2 as 4 disc DVD Box Set
Multimedia: Exclusive photos and video of Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas -In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Photo Call: BD Wong and the Cast of Heading East at the Asia Society
cllick here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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