Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Video: Q & A with Jeanne Sakata, Award Winning Actress Makes Playwrighting Debut Telling Story of Gordon Hirabayashi with Hold These Truths

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), starring Joel de la Fuente, and helmed by Lisa Rothe, has been extended through November 25, 2012 at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York.

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

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.

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.

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

On Veteran’s Day, 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.

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

I sat down to chat with Jeanne Sakata to talk about her inspiration to write Gordon Hirabayashi’s life story, how she did her research, why she chose the solo show format and what she hopes audiences will take away from de la Fuente’s performance.

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

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

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, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann Harada and Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Ann Harada and Jeanne Sakata. 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

Jeanne Sakata (Photo by Lia Chang)

Jeanne Sakata (Photo by Lia Chang)

Jeanne Sakata has been honored to make her playwriting debut in recent years with her solo Hold These Truths (formerly Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi). The play had its world premiere in 2007 at East West Players, co-presented by the Japanese American National Museum, the UCLA Department of Asian American Studies, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and was subsequently chosen by the Epic Theatre Ensemble and the Lark Play Development Center for their first joint presentation, as well as by the New York Theatre Workshop to be showcased at their 2009 Dartmouth Residency. Most recently, the play was performed at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion with Silk Road Rising/Millennium Park as part of the Park’s 2011 IN THE WORKS New Plays Series. It was also presented in the Epic Theatre Ensemble’s 2010 Passion Play Festival with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, at the University of California at Riverside, the 16th Annual Conference of the Japan Studies Association in Honolulu, at Japanese American Citizens League Day of Remembrance events in Sacramento and Salinas, California, and at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where it was the inspiration and theatrical centerpiece of the civil rights symposium “Civil Liberties, National Security and the Legacies of the Japanese Removal and Incarceration.” With the East West Players Theatre for Youth program in 2008 and 2010, the play has twice toured high schools and junior high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. HOLD THESE TRUTHS is now part of the Library of Congress Playwrights Archive in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection in Washington DC, where Sakata’s working script was recently on view in the Thomas Jefferson Building in conjunction with the Library of Congress celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Hold These Truths (Formerly Dawn’s Light: The Gordon Hirabayashi Story) is part of the Playwrights Archive in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection, and Sakata’s working script is currently on view in the Library of Congress’ Asian Division Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington DC through May 31, 2012, in conjunction with the Library of Congress celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). Photo by Lia Chang

Hold These Truths (Formerly Dawn’s Light: The Gordon Hirabayashi Story) is part of the Playwrights Archive in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection, and Sakata’s working script is currently on view in the Library of Congress’ Asian Division Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington DC through May 31, 2012, in conjunction with the Library of Congress celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne is also an acclaimed stage and screen actress, performing in 2011-2012 in the title role of Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession in the Antaeus Theatre Company’s Classics Fest, Daniel Akiyama’s A Cage of Fireflies at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive at East West Players, Seven at USC, and Don Nguyen’s Red Flamboyant at the Ojai Playwrights Festival. Jeanne has also performed with The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, American Conservatory Theater, Northlight Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Syracuse Stage and Arizona Theatre Company, and is a member of LA’s renowned classical group The Antaeus Company. Screen credits include playing Mom Wanda to Olivia Munn in the 2012 feature comedy The Babymakers, Tyler Perry’s “Meet The Browns,” “Desperate Housewives,” “ER,” “Threat Matrix,” “Line of Fire,” “Presidio Med,” “American Family,” “NUMB3RS,” John Ridley’s “I Got You,” the MOW’s “The Reading Room,” “Hiroshima,” “Consensual Relations,” and the feature films XXX2: State of The Union and American Fusion.

Jeanne’s special awards and honors include an LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress for her portrayal of male Beijing Opera star Master Hua in Chay Yew’s Red at EWP, a 2011 Outstanding Artist Award for her career achievements by Los Angeles’ Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theatre, an Entertainment Today Award for Best Supporting Actress in Chay Yew’s A WINTER PEOPLE at Theatre @ Boston Court, a StageScene “Best of 2007” Outstanding Performance mention for her performance as Maria Callas in EWP’s MASTER CLASS, and a DramaLogue Award for Outstanding Performance for her work in Jean Genet’s THE MAIDS at EWP. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 36 years, Timothy Patterson. For further information on Jeanne and HOLD THESE TRUTHS, please see:
www.jeannesakata.com,
www.holdthesetruths.info

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:
Video: Interview with Lisa Rothe, Director of Critically Acclaimed Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata, starring Joel de la Fuente
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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