Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Greg Watanabe Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s HOLD THESE TRUTHS at the Sydney Laurence Theatre at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts through Jan. 15

Gordon Hirabayashi, as portrayed by actor Greg Watanabe, decides to defy the curfew ordered against all those of Japanese ancestry by the U.S. government. Hirabayashi was one of only three people to challenge the order. Photo courtesy of Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Gordon Hirabayashi, as portrayed by actor Greg Watanabe, decides to defy the curfew ordered against all those of Japanese ancestry by the U.S. government. Hirabayashi was one of only three people to challenge the order. Photo courtesy of Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths starring Greg Watanabe and directed by Leslie Ishii kicks off its limited  run in Anchorage on January 5th at the Sydney Laurence Theatre at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, 621 W 6th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501, and will continue through January 15th. Tickets to HOLD THESE TRUTHS: alaskapac.centertix.net/eventperformances.asp or 263-ARTS

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.

Gordon Hirabayashi, played by actor Greg Watanabe, reads while in prison awaiting trial for violating curfew and refusing to register to be interned during World War II. Photo courtesy of Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Gordon Hirabayashi, played by actor Greg Watanabe, reads while in prison awaiting trial for violating curfew and refusing to register to be interned during World War II. Photo courtesy of Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Helmed by Leslie Ishii, Greg Watanabe plays Gordon Hirabayashi and 36 other characters in Hold These Truths, which recently had performances at the Perseverance Theatre in Douglas, AK through December 4, 2016.

Capital City Weekly’s theater critic Geoff Kirsch writes, “Instructive, entertaining and thought provoking in any context, Hold These Truths takes on a whole new significance opening ten days after Election Day. Echoes of stories in the current news cycle are unmistakable, specifically proposals for ethnic registries and mass deportations, as well as the sudden, unexpected ascendency of politicians who champion these policies.

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Fresh from a Broadway debut in Allegiance, actor Greg Watanabe nimbly portrays Hirabayashi’s principled stand against both the government and the country’s prevailing sentiment of fear—“I seek to live such that the ought-to-be is.” During the play’s 98 fast-paced minutes (no intermission) Watanabe also assumes the role of other characters from the story, including his parents and friends, lawyers, judges, police officers, army brass and even several Supreme Court justices.

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

In a broader sense, “Hold These Truths” explores the formation and impact of large cultural ideas in America. The play strives toward a deeper understanding of our triumphs through direct confrontation with our failures, as well as the courage of one person to stand up to—and triumph over—anything, even if that “anything” is his own government, and victory takes more than four decades to achieve.”

Capitalcityweekly.com: When equality loses its self-evidence

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.

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Greg Watanabe in HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Photo by Akiko Nishijima Rotch

Critically-acclaimed runs of Hold These Truths recently ended at Portland Center Stage and the Guthrie Theater. 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.

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 Anchorage:
Thursday, January 5, 2017 @ 7:30pm  Pay-As-You-Can Preview, with post-show discussion.
Friday, January 6, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, January 7, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, January 8, 2017 @ 4:00pm, post-show discussion with playwright Jeanne Sakata.
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.

As part of the opening weekend festivities, there will be a screening on Monday, January 9th of Greg Chaney’s documentary THE EMPTY CHAIR with panel discussion at The Anchorage Museum, 6:30pm.

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 Family, 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.  www.jeannesakata.com,  www.holdthesetruths.info  www.facebook.com/holdthesetruths

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 Playbill.com.

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