So why am I writing about it on a blog about markets and artisanal lifestyles? For starters, one of my father’s best friends was interned as a child, and it affected him for the rest of his life. Secondly, I, like millions of other people, adore George Takei for his voice, his humor, his talent and his courage. Finally, it’s my blog, and I like to write about things I think people would want to know about.
Hopefully you already know about this piece of our history. If you do not, here it is in a nutshell. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US Government under President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the roundup 120,000 Japanese Americans and moved them into 10 internment camps in extremely remote areas of the country. These American citizens lost their land, their homes, their businesses and their freedom simply because they looked like the enemy.
Many Japanese Americans flocked to recruitment centers to join the armed forces immediately after Pearl Harbour but were turned away and deemed “enemy non-aliens,” essentially stripped of their citizenship. Ironically, a year later, the military forces went to the camps to recruit the same people they had previously rebuffed because there was a shortage of military personnel.
George Takei and his family spent four years in two of these camps. Like my father’s friend, George has carried this experience throughout his life and made it his mission to educate people about it. So he collaborated with Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione to create “Allegiance.” I found out about this project through George Takei’s hilarious Facebook page, and I contributed to his crowdfunding project on IndieGoGo t0 raise money to stage the show in San Diego in hopes of bringing it to Broadway.
Luckily for me, my mom and sister live in San Diego, and there was a fare sale I could not pass up while “Allegiance” was showing at the Old Globe Theater last, in glorious Balboa Park. My awesome sister Leslie and I got the last two tickets to the show one evening, and we were seated literally right next to the stage. (I touched it.) To be honest, I was expecting something sort of experimental. What we got was a full-on, ready-for-prime-time Broadway show.
The story line about an interned farm family is riveting, heartbreaking and completely satisfying. The performers’ voices were phenomenal. George Takei plays two roles, a grandfather and an elder version of the main character. The younger lead is played by Telly Leung, whom I saw in “Godspell” with Corbin Bleu this summer. His voice is absolutely gorgeous, and I love watching him perform. Lea Salonga plays the female lead, a wonderful, warm and conflicted woman who comes into her own in the camps. Lea’s voice is rich and wonderful too.
My sister Leslie is not a huge fan of musicals, and I appreciate that she came with me just because I wanted to see the show. Even she said she thought it was outstanding and exceeded her expectations by miles.
After the show, I saw people hanging around outside the theater, so I figured it was like waiting outside the stage doors on Broadway. I did that once after “A Mighty Wind” at the Town Hall with a bunch of autograph seekers, and it felt super creepy, so I slinked off. (Frankly, I have no idea what to do with an autograph anyway.) But this time we were outside on a perfect Southern California night, so Leslie and I decided to hang out to see what happened. I met up with Telly, who told me that George was actually on the other side of the plaza. Each night, he stayed after the show until he had met and spoken with every single person who wanted to meet and speak with him.
Sure enough, there he was, chatting with a small crowd of fans. So I waited my turn, took pictures for other people, and ended up having a wonderful conversation with him about the show, about my father’s friend, and about how we must protect our human and civil rights, even in this country, even today. And then someone took our picture, which, of course, I promptly posted to FB.
George told me that “Allegiance” is coming to Broadway, possibly as early as January. I hope they bring the entire cast to Broadway because they have some kind of magic together. I recommend you get your tickets early because this is a wonderful show about a period in our history that was filled with conflict, shame and fear and yet has never been widely taught or discussed. The show is entertaining, but with an educational mission and message about the many ways we can confront adversity in our lives.
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