Hold These Truths ~ Arena Stage

Jordan Wright
March 5, 2018 

If you thought the Declaration of Independence was etched in stone, think again.  Remember the part about “Hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”?  In Jeanne Sakata’s drama, We Hold These Truths offers up a civics lesson in how that document didn’t apply to the more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II.

Ryun Yu as Gordon Hirabayashi in Hold These Truths. ~ Photo by Patrick Weishampel for Portland Center Stage.

After long interviews with Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee and religious pacifist Gordon Hirabayashi, Sakata used her imagination to bring to life the dramatic story of his struggles against the U. S. Government.   From his Seattle childhood to his college days at the University of Washington in the 1940’s and into his later years, the play take us through his refusal to sign the document that would have sent him to one of the camps.  He fought for his rights in a case that went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court.  There is so much more to the story of the camps and the negligence and the secrecy of the government that most of us never knew.  Did you know Japanese-American citizens had to sign a letter agreeing to relocation?  Did you know their Issei parents and grandparents did too?  Why would they?  Did you know their homes and businesses were destroyed?  Did you think this couldn’t happen to American citizens?  Think again.  It did.

Ryun Yu as Gordon Hirabayashi in Hold These Truths. ~ Photo by Chris Bennion for ACT-A Contemporary Theatre.

Gordon “Gordy” Hirabayashi, was an All-American college kid and Nisei (a person of Japanese descent born in the U. S.).  An A student who worked after school at the YMCA and attended a Quaker Meeting House on Sundays.  Gordy and his pals were as American as apple pie.  Until…they weren’t.

Directed by Jessica Kubzansky, Ryun Yu plays Gordy with power and humor, his lithe frame using all the real estate on and off the stage as he morphs into the many characters from the social activist’s fascinatingly fraught life.  Yu assumes the personalities and dialects of all the other characters, from Boston to Brooklyn and drawl to twang to the sing-song cadences of his Japanese parents.

A difficult subject, there is a great deal of humor and sweetness too as Gordy finds both freedom and true love through persistence and self-sacrifice while standing up for his rights and yours too.

Recommended for everyone you know.

Through April 8th 2018 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, DC 20024.  For tickets and information call 202 488-3300 or visit online.

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