Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos and Video: Daniel Dae Kim, Ann Harada, Greg Watanabe and More at Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths starring Joel de la Fuente

On Veteran’s Day, I headed to the Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York to chat with Joel de la Fuente, prior to his evening performance in The Epic Theatre Ensemble’s New York premiere of Jeanne Sakata’s solo play Hold These Truths (formerly known as Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi), directed by Lisa Rothe, which has been extended through November 25, 2012.

Joel de la Fuente as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel de la Fuente as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths. Photo by Lia Chang

As Gordon Hirabayashi, de la Fuente is a revelation in his nuanced tour-de-force portrayal of Gordon, seamlessly transforming into 30+ other characters throughout the course of the play.

Playwright Jeanne Sakata was inspired by a true story to write Hold These Truths, which is set 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, Hirabayashi journeys toward a greater understanding of America’s triumphs — and a confrontation with its failures. President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012), the nation’s highest civilian honor, in April 2012.

The audience at Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

The audience at Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

The Theatre at the 14th Street Y was packed to the rafters. Daniel Dae Kim flew in from the set of “Hawaii Five-O: to support his “brother” de la Fuente, “Smash”‘s Ann Harada, Golden Child‘s Greg Watanabe and Traci Kato-Kiriyama, casting director Meg Simon, playwright Sung Rno, Linda Chapman, Julie Crosby, Megan Carter, Julie Azuma, Tamio Spiegel, Dave Shih and more were among the full capacity crowd that leapt to their feet for several standing ovations.

Daniel Dae Kim, Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Lisa Rothe, Ann Harada, Sung Rno after a performance of Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Daniel Dae Kim, Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Lisa Rothe, Ann Harada, Sung Rno after a performance of Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Greg Kimura, President/CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, moderated a post-show panel on the legacy of the Hirabayashi case in the context of Asian American struggles for civil rights, with special guests Kathryn Bannai (the first lead attorney on the Hirabayashi 1980’s case), activist Suki Ports, playwright Jeanne Sakata and de la Fuente, organized by The A/P/A Institute at NYU.

Panelists Jeanne Sakata, Kathryn Bannai, Suki Ports and Greg Kimura during a post-show discussion at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Panelists Jeanne Sakata, Kathryn Bannai, Suki Ports and Greg Kimura during a post-show discussion at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 12, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Check out the Rave Reviews below.

THE NEW YORKER
“One of the stunning things about Joel de la Fuente’s performance in Jeanne Sakata’s gripping one-man show is how completely he embodies the real-life character of Gordon Hirabayashi….de la Fuente, under the direction of Lisa Rothe, also plays many other characters—Hirabayashi’s parents, his college friends, police, lawyers, judges, a Hopi Indian—but his portrayal of Hirabayashi, whom President Obama just this year posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, feels eerily true to life.”
Full Review

Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Golden Child's Greg Watanabe, Jeanne Sakata and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Golden Child’s Greg Watanabe, Jeanne Sakata and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

HUFFINGTON POST
“Jeanne Sakata’s eloquent one-man drama about civil rights giant Gordon Hirabayashi…. provides a concise examination of a fascinating chapter in American history…Joel de la Fuente plays Hirabayashi with buoyant, magnetic enthusiasm, under the direction of Lisa Rothe.”
Full Review

Jeanne Sakata, Kathryn Bannai, Suki Ports, Greg Kimura and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata, Kathryn Bannai, Suki Ports, Greg Kimura and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

TIMES SQUARE CHRONICLES
“A fabulous Joel de la Fuente….Ms. Sakata is a wonderful playwright who conveys emotions and words with a poetry that is full of humor and knowledge.”
Full Review

Joel de la Fuente and casting director Meg Simon. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel de la Fuente and casting director Meg Simon. Photo by Lia Chang

JAPAN CULTURE NYC
Hold These Truths is lighthearted, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny…. Joel de la Fuente does a tremendous job as Gordon, endearing himself to the audience with Gordon’s exuberance ….Both Sakata and de la Fuente emphasize the no-nonsense firmness within Gordon, whose deeply patriotic spirit and uncompromising faith allowed him to take on the US government as an American citizen.”
Full Review

Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Lisa Rothe and Robert Chelimsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Lisa Rothe and Robert Chelimsky. Photo by Lia Chang

TECHNORATI.COM
“…A shining play beautifully written by Jeanne Sakata…. resonates with vitality and power…de la Fuente’s stirring, layered portrayal of Hirabayashi, and his spot-on ironic and humorous portrayals of Hirabayashi’s parents, friends and people he meets along his journey, propel us toward a mixture of emotions, reminding us that this could happen again if we are not careful. Lisa Rothe’s excellent directing choices and Sakata’s emotionally uplifting rendering of this heroic soul adhere flawlessly. This is what living, breathing theater is about. Unforgettable.”
Full Review

Joel de la Fuente, Jeanne Sakata and Daniel Dae Kim. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel de la Fuente, Jeanne Sakata and Daniel Dae Kim. Photo by Lia Chang

URBAN EXCAVATIONS
“It takes a deft dramatic hand to craft moving theatre out of social history and courtroom drama, and a nuanced actor to portray the passage of time and multiple characters. The Epic Theatre production of Jeanne Sakata‘s Hold These Truths reveals just such deftness of hand and actor nuance. Moving, instructive, thrilling….Travel downtown to be inspired by script, actor, and history in equal measure….Culled to its human and emotional essence, we hold Hirabayashi’s story as we must all ‘hold these truths.’”
Full Review
Dave Shih and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang
Hold These Truths has been extended, and the remaining performance schedule is Saturday, November 17 @ 7pm, Sunday, November 18 @ 3pm & 7pm, Monday, November 19 @ 7pm, Friday, November 23 @ 7pm, Saturday, November 24 @ 3pm & 7pm, Sun, November 25, @ 7pm. Tickets (which include post show discussions) are $40 and are available by visiting www.epictheatreensemble.org. or by calling 866-811-4111. Above the Fold* offers $20 supplement price tickets for Dispatches From (A)mended America.

Theater at the 14th Street Y
344 E. 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
Steps away from the 1st Avenue Station on the L, L train to 1st Avenue

Joel de la Fuente (Photo by Lia Chang)

Joel de la Fuente (Photo by Lia Chang)

Most recently, Joel de la Fuente has appeared onstage playing Vershinin in The Three Sisters, directed by Brian Mertes at the Chautauqua Theatre Conservatory. On screen, de la Fuente stars in the feature film Brief Reunion, which just won the Audience Choice Award at the Gotham International Film Festival and in the upcoming film, Forgetting the Girl, which also took home Audience Award honors at the Soho International Film Festival. 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); The Square (Lisa Petersen, dir.); America Dreaming (Michael Mayer, dir.); Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (NYSF, Adrian Hall, dir.). In 2005, Joel de la Fuente served as the Artistic Associate of the National Asian American Theater Company. In addition to Ivanov, he has also appeared with NAATCO in the world premiere of Cowboy v. Samurai; Air Raid;Fuente Ovejuna (David Herskovitz, dir.); and as Iago in Othello (also directed by Jonathan Bank). Other theatrical credits include: Ariel in The Tempest (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey); Florizel in The Winter’s Tale (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Darko Tresjnak, dir.); Chay Yew’s Wonderland (La Jolla Playhouse, Lisa Petersen, dir.); Liu Mengmei in the Peter Sellars’ production of The Peony Pavilion which performed in Vienna, Rome, Paris, and London’s Barbican Centre with original music composed by Tan Dun.

Ann Harada and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

Ann Harada and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

On television, de la Fuente has spent ten seasons appearing as TARU technician Ruben Morales in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He was a series regular on the Fox drama, “Space: Above & Beyond;” and has had recurring roles on: “E.R.;” “High Incident;” and the Sidney Lumet series, “100 Centre Street.” Joel can be seen next Spring in the new series, “Hemlock Grove,” exclusively on Netflix. Additional film credits include: Personal Velocity (Sundance Jury Prize Winner, Best Film); The Adjustment Bureau; The Happening; Heights; Return to Paradise; From Other Worlds. As a writer, de la Fuente’s essay on his experiences as an Asian American actor is published in Pyong Gap Min’s “Struggle for Ethnic Identity,” and he is a co-writer of “Life Document 2: Identity” with Ayad Akthar, which won the Columbia Students Award for Best Film in 2002. Joel de la Fuente is an alumnus of Brown University and the Graduate Acting Program at N.Y.U. www.joeldelafuente.com/Twitter: @joeldelafuente

Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Daniel Dae Kim and Lia Chang. Photo by Ann Harada

Jeanne Sakata, Joel de la Fuente, Daniel Dae Kim and Lia Chang. Photo by Ann Harada

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She recently appeared in Lorey Hayes’ POWER PLAY.
Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: Opening Night with Hold These Truths’ Playwright Jeanne Sakata and Star Joel de la Fuente, a Revelation as Gordon Hirabayashi; Performances Extended through November 25, 2012
Epic Theatre Ensemble Presents New York Premiere of Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths Starring Joel de la Fuente at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y, October 12-November 18, 2012
Remembering Civil Rights Leader Gordon Hirabayashi,1918- 2012
President Obama Names Asian American Civil Rights Hero Gordon Hirabayashi Recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom
Signature Theatre’s Production of Golden Child by David Henry Hwang has been extended through December 16, 2012
Harlem Nights with Lorey Hayes, Actress, Director and Award-Winning Playwright of Power Play and Massinissa
Playing Lady Thiang in the Harbor Lights’ Production of The King and I is a dream come true for Christine Toy Johnson
Photos: Q & A with Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, The King in Harbor Lights’ Production of The King and I
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
Reading of Jeanne Sakata’s Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi Starring Joel de la Fuente in New York
Thom Sesma Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi
Video: Academy Award Winner Chris Tashima Talks About His Roles in Lily Mariye’s Model Minority and Lil Tokyo Reporter
10 minutes with Sullivan & Son’s Jodi Long, Award Winning Actor and Filmmaker
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2012 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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