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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“…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.”
“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.’”
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
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.
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
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
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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
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