Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Japan Society presents ‘George Takei: From Barbed Wire to Broadway’ on Jan. 25

George Takei. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei. Photo by Lia Chang

Japan Society is presenting George Takei: From Barbed Wire to Broadway on Monday, January 25 at 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). Tickets are $20/$16 Japan Society members, seniors and students, and may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258. For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit

The talk with film and television star, pop culture icon and social media powerhouse George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes) will be moderated by author and legal scholar Kermit Roosevelt, who wrote the critically acclaimed historical novel Allegiance (Regan Arts, 2015), and is followed by a reception.

Takei has been blazing trails as an activist over the last decade, championing gay rights and marriage equality in the U.S., and in recent years sharing his childhood experiences of being imprisoned in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

“Too few people know about that dark chapter of American history,” Takei told Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in 2014, “when American citizens of Japanese ancestry were summarily rounded up with no charges, no trial no due process–the core pillar of our justice system–and put in barbed wire prison camps simply because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor.”

In George Takei: From Barbed Wire to Broadway, Takei shares memories from the troubling chapter of American history when some 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated from their homes. He’ll discuss what it was like to live in an internment camp and how it affected his family, and reflect on how the tensions between liberty and security in the 1940s resemble tensions today as some political figures call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He also discusses how his experience led to the new musical, Allegiance, currently on Broadway starring Takei himself, and which Billboard called a “rare WWII-era piece of drama that actually feels fresh and necessary”.

Taken from Los Angeles to the swamps of Arkansas by train, Takei and his family spent nearly five years in a camp behind barbed wire fences and under constant surveillance by sentries with machine guns.

“Children are amazingly adaptable,” Takei told Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman. “And so, the barb wire fence became no more intimidating than a chain link fence around a school playground. And the sentry towers were just part of the landscape. We adjusted to lining up three times a day to eat lousy food in a noisy mess hall. And at school, we began every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. I could see the barb wire fence and the sentry towers right outside my schoolhouse window as I recited the words ‘with liberty and justice for all,’ an innocent child unaware of the irony.”

Upon reconciling his feelings with the injustice of the incident, Takei told Stewart something his father said that helped the most: “He said our democracy is a people’s democracy and it can be as great as people can be, but it’s also be as fallible as people are.”

George Takei signs autographs at the Longacre Theatre stage door in New York after the first preview of ALLEGIANCE on October 6, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei signs autographs at the Longacre Theatre stage door in New York after the first preview of ALLEGIANCE on October 6, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei and Brad Takei at the opening night party of 'Allegiance' at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei and Brad Takei at the opening night party of ‘Allegiance’ at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei’s acting career has spanned five decades, with more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. Now a community activist, Takei serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players, the nation’s foremost Asian Pacific American theater. He is also a member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political organization. Takei is Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum’s Board of Trustees; a member of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation Board of Directors; and served on the Board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission under President Bill Clinton. In recognition of his contribution to the Japan-United States relationship, in 2004, Takei was conferred with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, by His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan. Among his many accomplishments are a Grammy nomination Takei shared with Leonard Nimoy, in 1987, in the Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording category. He received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986. And in 1991, Takei left his signature and hand print, in cement, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. As an author, Takei’s first book, his autobiography, To the Stars, was published in 1994; and in 2012 and 2013 he published his second and third books, Oh Myyy! There Goes The Internet, and its sequel, Lions And Tigers And Bears: The Internet Strikes Back. Takei and his husband, Brad, were married at the Japanese American National Museum on September 14, 2008.

Kermit Roosevelt, great-great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the author of Allegiance (Regan Arts, 2015), the critically acclaimed historical novel. Born in Washington, DC, he attended Harvard University and Yale Law School. Before joining the Penn faculty, he clerked for D.C. Circuit Judge Stephen F. Williams and Supreme Court Justice David Souter and practiced law in Chicago. His experiences clerking and practicing law informed his first novel, the national campus bestseller In the Shadow of the Law (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), which won the Philadelphia Atheneum Annual Literary Award and was selected as a best book of the year by the Christian Science Monitor. Roosevelt works in a diverse range of fields, focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws. His book, Conflict of Laws (Foundation Press 2010) offers an accessible analytical overview of conflicts. His prior book, The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions (Yale, 2006) sets out standards by which citizens can determine whether the Supreme Court is abusing its authority.

Japan Society’s Talks+ Program examines vital issues and themes in modern Japanese art, culture and design. Programming is designed to inform and to provide a gateway through which Americans can appreciate the powerful global influence of Japan’s culture and its many trend-defining artisans. Programs bring together experts and practitioners for provocative discussions on diverse topics including aesthetics, consumer culture and cuisine. More at

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Talks+ Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). United Airlines is the exclusive U.S. Airlines sponsor of Talks+ Programs at Japan Society. Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund, and Dr. Yuichiro Kuwama.

Lea Salonga, George Takei, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and company. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Lea Salonga, George Takei, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and company. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Allegiance stars Takei, Tony and Olivier Award winner Lea Salonga (Miss SaigonLes Miserables), Broadway and Glee star Telly Leung and Michael K. Lee.  Allegiance is the vibrant and unforgettable story of one family’s resilience in the face of seemingly-insurmountable odds, inspired by Takei’s real-life experience as a Japanese American during World War II. Allegiance opened at the Longacre Theatre on Sunday, November 8, 2015.

The cast of ALLEGIANCE.The cast of ALLEGIANCE.

Allegiance features a book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione with music and lyrics by Jay Kuo. Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima directs, in his Broadway debut. Andrew Palermo serves as choreographer.

The cast stars George Takei as Sam Kimura/Ojii San; Lea Salonga as Kei Kimura; Telly Leung as Sammy Kimura; Katie Rose Clarke as Hannah Campbell, Michael K. Lee as Frankie Suzuki, Christópheren Nomura as Tatsuo Kimura; and Greg Watanabe as Mike Masaoka, and features Aaron J. Albano, Belinda Allyn, Marcus Choi, Janelle Toyomi Dote, Dan Horn, Owen Johnston, Darren Lee, Kevin Munhall, Manna Nichols, Rumi Oyama, Catherine Ricafort, Momoko Sugai, Sam Tanabe, Elena Wang, Scott Watanabe and Tony winner Scott Wise.

Allegiance illuminates one of American history’s lesser known chapters as it tells the story of Sam Kimura (Takei), transported back nearly six decades to when his younger self (Leung) and his sister Kei (Salonga) fought to stay connected to their heritage, their family, and themselves after Japanese Americans were wrongfully imprisoned during World War II. An epic story told with great intimacy, Allegiance explores the ties that bind us, the struggle to persevere, and the overwhelming power of forgiveness and, most especially, love.

Allegiance has implemented a digital lottery for $39 seats available each day via Entries can be submitted the day of the preferred performance, either by 11AM for matinees or 3PM for evening performances. Winners will be notified via email or text, depending on what they select during the entry process, and winners may purchase up to 2 tickets which will be held at the box office. Allegiance will also offer a limited number of $39 rush tickets for patrons 35 years old and under for each performance beginning at the opening of the box office each day. There will be a limit of 2 tickets per customer. Cash or credit cards will be accepted for all lottery and rush tickets, and seat locations will vary depending on availability.

Allegiance had its world premiere in a record-breaking engagement at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2012.


For more information go to

Scott Watanabe makes Broadway Principal Debut as Tatsuo Kimura in ‘Allegiance’ 

Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and George Takei talk about Broadway’s Allegiance at The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University

Broadway’s ‘Allegiance’ to Record Cast Album on Dec. 7

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and More celebrate opening night of ALLEGIANCE

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and more at the first preview of Broadway’s Allegiance; opens Nov. 8

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 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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