Allegiance at the Old Globe Theatre

When Allegiance went into preview performances
last month, it was still being tweaked says book writer Lorenzo Thione. LORENZO THIONE: It’s like archeology, a story
is down there it lies down there and you just have to dig it up. JAY KUO: But what I have learned in sort of
unearthing the story is that a lot has gone unspoken in 70 years. That’s composer Jay Kuo. JAY KUO: The Japanese American culture would
sooner bury the indignity and the shame than speak about it. That was the way that things
were for decades. It wasn’t until generations had passed that people began asking more questions
and these stories started to come out… Stories like those of George Takei who was
5 when he was taken to a Japanese American internment camp. GEORGE TAKEI: My most vivid memory I think
is that day when the soldiers came marching up, two soldiers came marching up our driveway
they had bayoneted rifles and I remember the glinting of those bayonets. Stomped up our
front porch and banged on the front door and ordered our family out. JAY KUO: We never thought in a million years
that we would write a music set during the Japanese American internment but just hearing
George tell that story you know when you’re hearing a great story, you also realize this
is a story, that for some reason has never been told on the big Broadway stage before. As a composer, Kuo writes in the language
of music and always saw the story as a musical. JAY KUO: What music does is liberate the spoken
word into the emotional and the emotions that are buried underneath that haven’t been spoken
in so long are so intense that the music allows them to come out so lately I’ve been saying
how could the story not be told through music. For Takei it was important to tell this story
about when the nation faltered. GEORGE TAKEI: I think we learn more from those
chapters than we do from the glorious chapters that we have plenty of. And the internment
story is still little known and even less understood. MARC ACITO: I knew about as much about the
Japanese American internment as pretty much any American, which is very little. Marc Acito helped write the book for the play.
Actress Lea Solanga says schools do little to inform students about the Japanese American
internment. LEA SALONGA: I remember a lot of kids that
were saying we only got one paragraph of this entire abominable experience to this entire
community of people, how do you encapsulate 4-5 years of what is incarceration in an internment
camp, how do you encapsulate that in a paragraph in a textbook. You can’t. Even Kuo, who was a civil rights attorney
and worked on cases involving the internment, felt he could learn more. JAY KUO: What I hadn’t experienced on a personal
level were a lot of the personal stories and so I found myself drawn in by diaries and
poetry and art made by the internees incredible things that need to be given voice. Something Takei felt was long overdue. But
the tone of the play may surprise you with its humor and hope. GEORGE TAKEI: Yes it was torturous and harrowing
at times but people still fell in love, they got married, had children, so there was joy.
You can’t survive something like that with all grim suffering. LEA SALONGA: Because the reality is there
were moments of lightness and life, just happening within the confines of barbed wire fences.
A lot of the internees were farmers they were actually able to tame the ground and grow
vegetables. MARC ACITO: It was a doom and gloom situation
in which they managed to bloom where they were planted and that’s enormously inspiring. The internment was more than just a violation
of civil rights. It raised a divisive series of questions within the Japanese American
community about where one’s allegiance lies. JAY KUO: Does your allegiance for example
lie with the country that did this to you, do you still pledge allegiance to the US even
if your due process and equal rights have been violated. For Takei’s father the answer was a resounding
yes. GEORGE TAKEI: My father used to say both the
strength and the weakness of our democracy is in the fact that it is a people’s democracy.
It can be as great as people can be but also as fallible as people are. Family members are also imperfect and the
family at the center of the play are torn apart by more questions of allegiance. JAY KUO: Do you keep allegiance to a family
when your family is fractured? Do you resist the government do you stand up even if it
puts your family at risk. LORENZO THIONE: For lack of a better term
we always called this like the call your dad story because it’s about that feeling of regret
that can come when relationships get damaged and what can one do to really fix those and
move forward. JAY KUO: This was an event that fractured
the Japanese American community 70 years ago. And it’s still fractured to day and so we’re
still engaging with the community on that today and that means to me that these wounds
are not completely healed and all of the things that we are talking about are still relevant. Allegiance is groundbreaking not only for
its subject but also for providing Asian American actors an opportunity to break out of stereotypes
and play multi-dimensional roles. LEA SALONGA: Everybody who is of Asian descent
doing the show, it isn’t lost on any one of us how big of an opportunity and how wonderful
of a chance this is to tell a story like this one.

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