Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

July 31-Aug. 3: Drama Desk Nominee Joel de la Fuente stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at ACT, Helmed by Lisa Rothe

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

Central Heating Lab at ACT presents Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata, starring Drama Desk nominee Joel de la Fuente, July 31 – August 3, 2014 at the ACT Theatre Allen Arena, 700 Union Street, Seattle, WA.

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

Inspired by the true story of University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi, Hold These Truths follows Gordon during the U.S. Government’s decision to forcibly remove and incarcerate people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

Hirabayashi openly defied the relocation and internment and refused to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory. Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew. Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943. Following World War II and his imprisonment, Hirabayashi obtained a doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor. In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Helmed by Lisa Rothe, Joel de la Fuente will reprise his role as Gordon Hirabayashi and 36 other characters in Hold These Truths, which had its New York premiere in October 2012 in a production by Epic Theatre Ensemble at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y. Sakata’s solo show tells the story of Gordon Hirabayshi as he fights to reconcile his country’s betrayal and to maintain his passionate belief in the U.S. Constitution. In Hold These Truths we witness Hirabayashi as he journeys toward a greater understanding of America’s triumphs – and a confrontation with its failures.

In the dressing room with Joel de la Fuente, who stars as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 24, 2012. Joel is holding a photo of Esther Schmoe and Gordon Hirabayashi on their wedding day. Photo by Lia Chang

In the dressing room with Joel de la Fuente, who stars as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 24, 2012. Joel is holding a photo of Esther Schmoe and Gordon Hirabayashi on their wedding day. Photo by Lia Chang

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi (1918-2012) was an American sociologist best known for his resistance to the Japanese-American internment during World War II. He was one of the only three to openly defy it. After being convicted for curfew violation he was sentenced to 90 days in prison. The verdict was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Hirabayashi v. United States (1943). They unanimously ruled against him. He later spent a year in federal prison for refusing induction into the armed forces after they had sent out a racially discriminatory survey to Japanese-Americans demanding renunciation of allegiance to the emperor of Japan. In 1987, the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit overturned his conviction from 1943. In 2012, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hirabayashi for his principled stand against Japanese-American internment.

“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—but his portrayal of Hirabayashi, whom President Obama just this year posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, feels eerily true to life.”
The New Yorker, October 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

“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 wtih buoyant, magnetic enthusiasm, under the direction of Lisa Rothe.”
The Washington Post/API, October 2012

“The astounding performance that Joel de la Fuente delivers as Gordon Hirabayashi is reason enough to recommend Hold These Truths…with Jeanne Sakata at the helm, we are treated to a dazzling, literary script that’s full of humor.”
New York Times Readers’ Review, October 2012

“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.’”
Urban Excavations, October 2012

“Resonates with vitality and power….This is what living, breathing theater is about. Unforgettable.”
Technorati, October 2012

Joel de la Fuente comments: “Gordon’s story teaches us that the actions of one individual can have tremendous power. Gordon believed long enough to remind us of what it means to be American. As history teaches us, this is a lesson so important that it cannot be learned just once. We must always be willing to learn it again.

“Perhaps the biggest blessing of doing Jeanne Sakata’s HOLD THESE TRUTHS is that not only do I get to be an instrumental part in telling the story of a remarkable hero, but I am being asked to draw on my experiences as an AMERICAN. Gordon Hirabayashi is of Asian heritage, but he is also a citizen of the United States. Asian American actors so rarely get an opportunity to be seen on our stages as Americans, so to do so while telling such a remarkable story has been one of the most satisfying artistic experiences of my life.”
Sponsored by the Tateuchi Foundation, this production will bring the Drama Desk Award nominated performance of Joel de la Fuente to Seattle for the first time. ACT Theatre is pleased to partner with the Wing Luke Museum to present additional immersion activities surrounding the play and Hold These Truths is also supported with additional funding from the John Graham Foundation.

The creative team features Set Design by Mikiko Suzuki McAdams; Lighting Design by Cat Tate Starmer; Costume Design by Meg Weedon; and Sound Designer/Composer Daniel Kluger.

Hold These Truths Performances:

Thursday, July 31, 7:30pm (Post-show discussion)

Friday, August 1, 7:30pm (Post-show Panel – with Steve Sumida, Frank Abe, and Jeanne Sakata)

Saturday, August 2, 7:30pm (Post-show discussion)

Sunday, August 3, 2:00pm (Post-show discussion)

Additional Immersion Events:

· Saturday August 2, 2:00pm – “From Page to Stage” Playwright Jeanne Sakata will share her experiences in researching and writing the play Hold These Truths.

Jeanne Sakata (Photo by Lia Chang)

Jeanne Sakata (Photo by Lia Chang)

· August 9 Conscience and the Constitution a documentary by Frank Abe at Wing Luke Museum

Tickets: Adults: Single tickets start at $20. Also included on the monthly ACTPass Membership. Call (206) 292-7676 or visit

About The Central Heating Lab: Launched in 2007, The Central Heating Lab at ACT serves as an incubator and catalyst for new works. ACT cultivates, produces, and presents artists working in all performance genres and provides an artistic home for a variety of local performance groups and artists. Relationships develop daily with individual actors, performers and playwrights while established partnerships with groups such as the Azeotrope, The Seagull Project, 14/48, and Icicle Creek Theatre Festival grow and develop. New programs are added throughout the year. With year-round programming produced by The Central Heating Lab at ACT alongside ACT’s Mainstage plays, ACT offers its patrons a unique opportunity to maximize their theatre experience-the ACTPass: all you can see for only $30 per month. ACTPass Members can attend nearly all ACT produced performances.

Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel de la Fuente (actor, Hold These Truths) Onstage, Joel most recently performed the solo drama, Hold These Truths for its New York premiere at Epic Theater (Drama Desk Nomination), for a sold-out run in Hawaii at the prestigious Honolulu Theatre for Youth, as part of the 10th Annual soloNOVA Arts Festival and at Playmaker’s Rep in Chapel Hill, NC.  Joel just wrapped shooting his second season of the original series, “Hemlock Grove,” as Dr. Johann Pryce, exclusively available on Netflix. On screen, he stars in the feature film Brief Reunion, currently available on iTunes (garnering Audience Choice Award, Gotham International Film Festival; Best Narrative Film Award, University Film and Video Association).

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 served as the Artistic Associate of the National Asian American Theater Company. In addition to Ivanov, Joel has also appeared with NAATCO in the world premiere of Cowboy v. Samurai; Caryl Churchill’s, a number; Fuente Ovejuna (David Herskovitz, dir.); and as Iago in Othello, among others.

Other theatrical credits include: Vershinin in The Three Sisters (Chautauqua Theatre Conservatory, Brian Mertes, dir.); 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.

On television, Joel 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 de la Fuente as Dr. Johann Pryce in Netflix's Hemlock Grove. Photo: Netflix

Joel de la Fuente as Dr. Johann Pryce in Netflix’s Hemlock Grove. Photo: 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; and Forgetting the Girl.

As a writer, Joel’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 Pulitzer Prize winner, Ayad Akthar, which won the Columbia Students Award for Best Film in 2002.

Joel is an alumnus oF Brown University and the Graduate Acting Program at N.Y.U. and resides in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.

Lisa Rothe

Lisa Rothe

Lisa Rothe (Director) most recently directed Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata for Epic Theatre Ensemble (nominated for a Drama Desk award for Best Solo Performance) and Honolulu Theatre for Youth; Penelope by Ellen McLaughlin & Sarah Kirkland Snider at Playmakers Repertory Company and this summer, she will be directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for the Chautauqua Theater Company. She is also currently developing a new opera about Ada Byron (Ada) by composer Kim Sherman and librettist Margaret Vandenburg, which was presented last spring as a part of the Center for Contemporary Opera’s Development Series. Lisa has workshopped, developed and directed over one hundred new plays and musicals, working with many award winning writers. In NY, she has directed and/or developed work with Lark Play Development Center, New York Theatre Workshop, The Public Theater , Epic Theatre Ensemble, New Georges, The Women’s Project, The Foundry, Ensemble Studio Theatre, 52nd Street Project, Naked Angels, BAM, Summer Play Festival, NYMF, Midtown InterNational Theatre Festival (Best Director), National Actors Theater, Keen Company (Keen Teens), Orchard Project, Voice & Vision, HERE, Dixon Place, among others. Regionally, she has worked with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare Theatre, Vermont Stage Company, The New Harmony Project, Synchronicity Theatre, Chautauqua Theatre, Riverside Theatre. Lisa has worked with the World Wide Orphan Foundation (WWO) in Ethiopia, creating theatre with local children and teens and has taught and directed at many theatre programs around the country including NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, Yale School of Drama, The Juilliard School, Chautauqua Conservatory and many others. She is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program and Director’s Lab, as well as a Drama League alum, Fox Fellow, member of the Women’s Project Director’s Lab and is currently serving on the boards of the League of Professional Theatre Women and the Theatre World Awards. Lisa is also the director of Offsite Programs and Partnerships at the Lark Play Development Center where she deals with providing expanded opportunities for playwrights, aimed at advancing new work to production nationally and globally.

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata’s (Playwright) Hold These Truths (formerly Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi), had its world premiere in 2007 at Los Angeles’ 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. In its 2012 New York premiere at the Epic Theatre Ensemble, Hold These Truths opened to unanimous rave reviews from The New Yorker, The Washington Post/API, and many other theatre critics, resulting in a Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, and a subsequent Hawaiian premiere, co-presented by Daniel Dae Kim and the Honolulu Theatre For Youth. Developed by the Lark Play Development Center and the New York Theatre Workshop, it has also been performed at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion with Silk Road Rising/Millennium Park, the University of California at Riverside and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where it served as 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 Jeanne Sakata Collection in the Library of Congress Playwrights Archive, Asian American Pacific Islander Collection, Washington DC. (,

 Hold These Truths' star Joel de la Fuente and playwright Jeanne Sakata on the red carpet of The Drama Desk Awards at The Town Hall in New York on May 19, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Hold These Truths’ star Joel de la Fuente and playwright Jeanne Sakata on the red carpet of The Drama Desk Awards at The Town Hall in New York on May 19, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne is also a renowned actress whose acclaimed “cross-gender” portrayal of Master Hua in Chay Yew’s RED at East West Players earned her the LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress. She has performed across the country at the 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 the Arizona Theatre Company, and developed new works with The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and the Ojai Playwrights Festival. Screen credits include “NCIS Los Angeles,” “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 The Babymakers, XXX2: State of the Union and American Fusion.

Jeanne recently received a Best Actress Award for her role in Adultolescence at the Monaco Charity Film Festival and in December 2011, she was honored with an Outstanding Artist Award for her career achievements by Los Angeles’ Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theatre. (


Below are interviews with Hold These Truths‘ playwright Jeanne Sakata, star Joel de la Fuente and director Lisa Rothe.

Hold These Truths‘ playwright Jeanne Sakata talks 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.

Hold These Truths‘ star Joel de la Fuente talks about the challenges of playing 30+ characters and the impact playing Gordon Hirabayashi has had for him.

Director Lisa Rothe discusses how she first became involved with Hold These Truths, her history with Joel de la Fuente, how attending a Quaker meeting influenced her design and concept of the set, her prior knowledge of Gordon Hirabayashi, and her exposure to the internment camps.

Other Hold These Truths Articles:
Apr. 23-27: Joel de la Fuente Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at PlayMaker’s Repertory Company One-man show ‘Hold These Truths’ feels like an ensemble production “Hold These Truths” Is Mesmerizing and Multidimensional Theater review: PlayMakers’ Hold These Truths
Mar. 17: Reading of Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths starring Joel de la Fuente at People’s Light & Theatre
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Hold These Truths Opening Night at Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s Tenney Theatre with Daniel Dae Kim, Joel de la Fuente and Jeanne Sakata
Brief Reunion Starring Joel de la Fuente, Alexie Gilmore and Scott Shepherd, Opens in NY & L.A. on January 18, 2013
Hold These Truths Video Feature: Playwright Jeanne Sakata, Star Joel de la Fuente and Director Lisa Rothe
Video: Interview with Lisa Rothe, Director of Critically Acclaimed Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata, starring Joel de la Fuente
Video: Q & A with Jeanne Sakata, Award Winning Actress Makes Playwrighting Debut Telling Story of Gordon Hirabayashi with Hold These Truths
Photos and Video: Daniel Dae Kim, Ann Harada, Greg Watanabe and More at Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths 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
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

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
Late Night Singing with Garth Kravits at 54 Below with The Skivvies, at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland and Michael Raye’s Soul Gathering
A.C.T.’s Production Photos of The Orphan of Zhao starring BD Wong, Sab Shimono, Julyana Soelistyo, Stan Egi, Orville Mendoza, Paolo Montalban and More, Opens June 11
Bryan Cranston, Audra McDonald, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessie Mueller, Lena Hall, Sophie Okonedo, Kenny Leon, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, All The Way, A Raisin in the Sun, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and More Take Home 2014 Tony Awards
Jun. 16: Project1Voice & NBLCA Presents Staged Reading of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf Featuring Trazana Beverley, LaChanze, Adriane Lenox, Tonya Pinkins, Lillias White, Denise Burse Fernandez, Marva Hicks, Roslyn Ruff and More
June 13-14: Washington National Opera Presents Huang Ruo & David Henry Hwang’s An American Soldier in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis’ ‘it could be worse’ Series Featuring Adam Chanler-Berat, Alison Fraser, Gideon Glick and More Airs on Pivot TV in June; and on Hulu in July
Jun. 23: The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream at Carnegie Hall Features Chapman Roberts, Norm Lewis, André De Shields, Chuck Cooper, Brandon Victor Dixon and More
Lucille Lortel Awards for Here Lies Love, Fun Home, The Open House, Good Person of Szechwan
Signature Theatre to Be Honored with the 2014 Regional Theatre Tony Award
Remembering Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama, 1921-2014
June 4: Garth Kravits, Lena Hall, Lesli Margherita, Wesley Taylor and More Strip Down with The Skivvies at 54 Below
June 22 – July 27: Blair Underwood, Richard Thomas and Kristen Connolly Lead the Cast of The Old Globe’s Othello, helmed by Barry Edelstein 
May 31 – June 22: Annette O’Toole Leads Cast of Wendy Wasserstein’s “Third” Helmed by Michael Cumpsty at Two River Theater Company 
June 5-7: National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More 
May 28 – June 29: Lisa Joyce, Henry Kelemen and CJ Wilson Join Mary McCann in Atlantic Theater Company’s OUR NEW GIRL
Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ Appropriate, Lisa Kron’s Fun Home, Sonya Tayeh, Emmanuel Brown, Mia Katigbak, K. Todd Freeman, John Earl Jelks Among 2014 OBIE Award Winners
Asia Flores Debuts Royal72Co Fashion Line at Pa’ina Lounge
Photos: André Braugher, Ami Brabson, Christine Toy Johnson, Antoinette LaVecchia, Richard Topol, Victor Williams, Nikkole Salter, Elizabeth Van Dyke at Oni Faida Lampley’s Tough Titty at the Paradise Factory
Photos: AALDEF Honors Mari Matsuda, Aasif Mandvi, and John Chou in 2014 at 40th Anniversary Celebration
Photos: Harriet Harris, John Tartaglia, Christine Toy Johnson, Alan Muraoka, James Saito and More celebrate Ann Harada’s Debut at Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series
Photos: Backstage and Opening Night of Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia recently starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Phynjuar, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.  She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 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

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