Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Greg Watanabe Stars in Perseverance Theatre’s Production of Jeanne Sakata’s HOLD THESE TRUTHS in Juneau, Nov. 18-Dec. 4, and in Anchorage, Jan. 6-15

Greg Watanabe

Greg Watanabe

Greg Watanabe jets off to Juneau tomorrow for Perseverance Theatre’s production of Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths, directed by Leslie Ishii during its 38th season producing professional theatre by and for Alaskans. Hold These Truths will have performances in Juneau, November 18-December 4, 2016, at the Perseverance Theatre, 914 Third St., Douglas, AK 99824; and in Anchorage, January 6-15, 2017, at the Sydney Laurence Theatre at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, 621 W 6th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501.

Hold These Truths tells the story of Japanese American Gordon Hirabayashi’s fight against the United States Government order to forcibly remove and mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. A true story in the form of a one-man-show, Hold These Truths is based on the life of an American citizen of Japanese ancestry who resisted the U.S. government’s order to report to internment camps early in World War Two. Gordon Hirabayashi always knew he was different. When he was a young man in 1943, and Japanese- Americans were being forced into camps, Gordon chose to fight US Government action rather than obey an order he felt was unlawful. His experiences in the courts and camps of the time sparked a passion for the U.S. constitution, and how it is our duty to uphold it.

Helmed by Leslie Ishii, Greg Watanabe will play Gordon Hirabayashi and 36 other characters in Hold These Truths. Currently being performed at Portland Center Stage (through Nov. 13th)  and the Guthrie Theater (through Oct. 23th), Hold These Truths had its world premiere at LA’s East West Players in 2007 and its off-Broadway debut with the Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2012 (Drama Desk Nomination of Outstanding Solo Performance). It has since been performed at Seattle’s ACT Theatre, PlayMakers Repertory, People’s Light & Theatre, Honolulu Theatre for Youth (co-produced with Daniel Dae Kim), Terra Nova Collective, Silk Road Rising/Millennium Park, Coachella Valley Rep. and Plays and Players.

With set design by Akiko Nishijima Rotch, costumes by Sara Ryung Clement, lighting design by Art Rotch, sound design by John Zalewski; Jessica Jones is the stage manager.

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.

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.

Performance schedule in Juneau:
Thursday, November 17, 2016 7:30pm Pay-As-You-Can Preview
Friday, November 18, 2016 7:30pm Opening Night
Saturday, November 19, 2016 7:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 2016 4:00pm Pay-As-You-Can
Wednesday, November 23, 2016 7:30pm Pay-As-You-Can
Friday, November 25, 2016 7:30pm Beer Friday
Saturday, November 26, 2016 7:30pm
Sunday, November 27, 2016 4:00pm
Wednesday, November 30, 2016 7:30pm
Thursday, December 1, 2016 7:30pm
Friday, December 2, 2016 7:30pm
Saturday, December 3, 2016 7:30pm
Sunday, December 4, 2016 4:00pm

Performance schedule in Anchorage:
Thursday, January 5, 2017 @ 7:30pm  Pay-As-You-Can Preview
Friday, January 6, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, January 7, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, January 8, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Thursday, January 12, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Friday, January 13, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, January 15, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Purchase tickets here.

Greg Watanabe recently made his Broadway debut in Allegiance. Off-Broadway credits include THE BALLAD OF YACHIYO (The Public), and GOLDEN CHILD (Signature Theater). Recently, he appeared in EXIT THE KING (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey) and A SINGLE SHARD (People’s Light). Other regional credits include the world premiere productions of THE SUMMER MOON (A Contemporary Theater), THE HAPPY ONES (South Coast Repertory Theater, L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination, Best Featured Performance) and EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS (Geffen Playhouse, Ovation nomination, Best Featured Actor). Others favorites include YELLOW FACE (Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, San Diego Theater Critics Circle nomination, Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play), NO-NO BOY (adapted by Ken Narasaki) Greg is member of the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, an Asian American comedy troupe.

Leslie Ishii

Leslie Ishii

Leslie Ishii is a stage director, arts educator and actor. At East West Players (EWP), she supported the launch of their 2042: See Change Campaign which included the 51% Preparedness Plan for the American Theatre, their national equity/diversity/inclusion initiative. Leslie has directed at EWP and is a longtime faculty member in the EWP Conservatory, serving Pan Asian and Pacific Islanders of Southern California. It is here where she shares her liberation and alliance building curriculums integrated with acting, voice work, and theatre making training.

Ishii is in her ninth season as a Project Faculty for Center Theatre Group’s (CTG) Young Audiences Program (YAP), where she integrates her alliance building approach into Audience Engagement and YAP curriculums, teacher-conferences and in-school visits throughout greater Los Angeles. With CTG teaching artists, Leslie is co-organizer/founder of a Los Angeles equity/diversity/inclusion task force that presented the breakout session Allies Eliminating Racism In Theatre at the Theatre Communication Group’s (TCG) National Conference, Boston, June 2012.   This breakout session led to TCG’s first ever Fall Forum Conference on diversity and inclusion and the launch of their Equity/Diversity/Inclusion Institute, November 2012, where Leslie was a co-facilitator of both. 

Ishii is a guest director, professor, lecturer, panelist, and mentor at universities, colleges, and conservatories and has also co-organized and co-directed Freedom and Focus International Fitzmaurice Voicework® Conferences in Barcelona, Spain and Vancouver, Canada, bringing together national and international acting, voice and speech trainers. Leslie has also been a featured presenter at national and international artistic and research conferences in Vancouver, BC, Mexico City, Mexico, Barcelona, Spain, and Vienna, Austria reaching university, college, and conservatory practitioners/researchers.

Ishii has been seen in every genre of film and tv, from major motion pictures to independent films to recurring on hit tv shows and soap operas. She has also shot national and region commercials, industrials, and has appeared in numerous print ads. Leslie is enormously grateful to have continued to work in the theatre since starting at the Northwest Asian American Theatre in Seattle and graduating from the American Conservatory Theater. Upon graduation she worked on Broadway, in regional theatres and supported the development of numerous plays in readings and workshops. SDC, SAG-AFTRA, AEA. She is an Arts For LA ACTIVATE Cultural Policy Cohort and a James P. Shannon Leadership Institute Cohort,a recipient of the Teachers Making A Difference Award; Commendation by the City of Los Angeles, 2010.

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths was recently included by audience demand in Seattle’s ACT Theatre 2015 50th Anniversary Mainstage Season following four sold-out performances in the ACT Lab.  In 2016, in addition to its Perseverance Theatre run, the play is also being produced at Portland Center Stage and the Guthrie Theater. Premiering at LA’s East West Players in 2007, Hold These Truths had its off-Broadway debut with the Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2012 (Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, actor Joel de la Fuente; Joe A. Callaway Award Finalist, Outstanding Direction, director Lisa Rothe) and has since been performed at PlayMakers Repertory, People’s Light & Theatre, Honolulu Theatre for Youth (co-produced with Daniel Dae Kim), Terra Nova Collective, Silk Road Rising/Millennium Park, and Coachella Valley Rep. Jeanne is also an acclaimed actor who has performed with the Public Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre, Kennedy Center, the Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, the Intiman, Portland Center Stage, ACT Seattle, ACT San Francisco, Berkeley Rep, and People’s Light & Theatre.  Screen credits include the internationally acclaimed indie film Advantageous (US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision, 2015 Sundance Film Festival) and guest appearances on BRAVO’S True Fiction, Dr. Ken, NCIS Los Angeles, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives, Presidio Med, ER, Threat Matrix, Line of Fire, American Famil, John Ridley’s I Got You, and Sex and Marriage, a Justin Lin YOMYOMF YouTube webseries.  Special honors: LA Ovation Award, Outstanding Lead Actress, Red at EWP;  2016 Lee Melville Award, Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community, Playwrights’ Arena; Outstanding Artist Award, LA Asian Pacific American Friends of Theatre; establishment of the Jeanne Sakata Collection, Library of Congress Playwrights Archive, Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.,

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 Jade Magazine and

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