|Joel de la Fuente in Hold These Truths (photo by Lia Chang)|
Hold These Truths
starring Joel de la Fuente
through August 3, 2014
If you see this post and it is still August 1st, 2nd or 3rd, stop reading this and go get your tickets to this beautiful piece of theater, Hold These Truths, right now. I'll wait.
This powerful 90 minute solo performance is everything that makes theater unique, important, amazing. Actor-turned-playwright Jeanne Sakata was so moved by her subject that she became a writer to tell the story. She does a masterful job, with the help of consummate theater practitioners director Lisa Rothe and actor Joel de la Fuente.
It is a unique opportunity to experience this production in Gordon Hirabayashi's home neighborhood which makes it even more powerful, I would think, than anywhere else. "Opening night" included dozens of Gordon's family members in the audience, which made it that much more amazing to be in the room.
Gordon Hirabayashi was a Seattle native who refused to relocate to an internment camp and refused, again, to be drafted in the Armed Services because it meant signing a pledge that he would not swear allegiance to the Japanese Emperor. Though he was not a lawyer, and not even that great a student (by this account), somehow he figured out what few Japanese-Americans seemed ready to agitate for: the internment was anti-Constitutional and so was asking only Japanese-American potential soldiers to sign a loyalty pledge.
The play tells of his life before activism and what he and his family had to go through as he stood up for his principles. Stingingly, it details the racism in Seattle specifically, that was more ingrained and harsh than New York City, for instance. The "No Japs" signs in windows, the seats only in balconies, the lunch counter restrictions.
Gordon Hirabayashi and a few others saw it clearly and fought against every societal and political and military reaction, all the way up to the Supreme Court, which turned out to be far from "supreme" and full of very human, very scared, and very wrong justices. So, he lost. And he spent time in prison. Yet, he became a professor and taught. And kept his humanity and his principles.
Joel de la Fuente, in a 3-chair staging, with a suitcase, a couple of books, and a writing pad, creates the whole story, along with an assortment of people around Gordon's life: his best friend in college, his mother, lawyers, jailers, and Gordon as a youth and older man. It is the quintessential around-the-fire tale, but it's true. He brings vigor and emotion and passion and stagecraft to the task, and then just lets it fly to unspool before us.
Though it's spare, it does include gorgeous lighting and sound design from Cat Tate Starmer and Daniel Kluger respectively.
Ok, this is really a great opportunity to see something that embodies what theater can be all about. So, if you haven't tried, yet, to get a ticket, please do yourself a favor and do whatever you can to make it happen.