* Denotes items that are $15 or less
Hold These Truths
“Deru kugi wa utareru.” That’s the Japanese proverb that says: "The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hit." It’s a missive to keep your head down, not make a fuss, obey.
Faced with the ugly reality of a racist U.S. mandate to intern everyone of Japanese ancestry during World War II, Gordon Hirabayashi refused to conform. As a UW student, he defied a campus curfew, then stared down the mandate by turning himself into the FBI.
Joel de la Fuente stars as Gordon Hirabayashi. Credit: Lia Chang
Hirabayashi was convicted and imprisoned, then 40 years later, after he was a husband, father and professor, he was vindicated when a court overturned his conviction.
“It’s a great story that I could never have invented,” says playwright Jeanne Sakata, whose “Hold These Truths” opens at ACT this weekend. "When I discovered the story, I was so enthralled.
The Los Angeles-based Sakata, a Japanese American actor, came across a documentary about Hirabayashi in the early 1990s. Decades ago, when she was performing in Seattle, she went to the UW libraries and found Hirabayashi’s wartime letters. She also found a college student who put her in touch with Hirabayashi, who by then was living in Canada. Sakata interviewed him as well as his brothers and she weaves details and anecdotes into "Hold These Truths", her first play. Some of those details: how Hirabayashi, as a child: used to play in an ofuro, an outdoor wooden bath; how Hirabayashi as a college student winds up in New York City and encounters a freedom of not being discriminated against because of his ancestry, in contrast to his experience pre Executive Order in Seattle.
This is the first time Sakata’s 2007 play is being performed in Seattle. Hirabayashi never got to see it. He passed away in 2012, suffering from Alzheimer's in his later years. But Sakata sent him a program when the play premiered and as the story goes, his wife read it aloud to him. "And she said he kind of nodded," Sakata says. "We're not sure how he understood that the play had premiered. But we hope he did."
If you go: ACT Theatre, July 31-Aug. 3 (Tickets start at $20). Jeanne Sakata gives a talk about her work on Aug. 2 —F.D.
Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado *
Seattle's Gilbert and Sullivan Society drew a firestorm of criticism (electronic invective and picket signs, too) for its recent production of “The Mikado.” Is it racist? Is it art? Should a white person ever wear a kimono on stage? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I refer you to Google. (And if you want to weigh in, I invite you to a public forum entitled: “Artistic Freedom vs. Artistic Responsibility” on Aug. 18 at The Seattle Rep).
I'm talking about a Seattle Opera/Seattle Public Theater Youth Program production (and I have to believe the folks in charge considered every opinion that’s out there before deciding to proceed with the show). This won’t be the usual British satirical Mikado, explain the grownup directors Kelly Kitchens and Barbara Lynne Jamison. “Instead, taking a fresh, 21st century perspective, we set our opera in a place familiar and relevant to young people who are growing up in a globalized world of anime, manga, and harajuku street fashion."
They had me at harajuku.
Shabazz Palaces *
If hip-hop music evolves as it should over the next few decades, mainstream rappers will begin to take their queues from Shabazz Palaces. The group elevates the genre to the point that its breakthrough debut LP ( 2011’s “Black Up”) genuinely sounded like it was beamed to Earth from a distant alien world. It was all seething, pulsating basslines punctuated by erratic percussive sounds (many played live during shows) and extraterrestrial samples. Ishmael Butler, formerly Butterfly of the jazzy art rap group Digable Planets, has never sounded more intellectual than in this project, delivering lines with the rapidity of Andre 3000. If the newest single (“Forerunner Foray”) is any indication, the group's newest album (“Lese Majesty”) will become another noteworthy entry in tomorrow’s history books.
If you go: Shabazz Palaces’ Lese Majesty Album Release, Neumos, Aug. 1 ($15). 21+ — J.S.H.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires *
KEXP’s annual August concert series begins Friday with a soulful bang. Charles Bradley, “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” will headline this free outdoor show. Bradley is truly one of the best living soul singers, channeling the energy of James Brown and the spirit of Al Green. He appears to have an electric current coursing through him when he sings — and he sweats bullets. Between songs, he talks mostly about the healing power of love. The choice of opening bands is unusual, but both openers — the local bubble punks Tacocat and those alt rock percussion maniacs Kithkin — are a lot of fun.
If you go: Charles Bradley, Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater, Aug. 1 (FREE). All ages. —J.S.H.
On Saturday, Neumos continues its excellent series of DJ sets, which features members of extra dancy bands, as opposed to artists known primarily as DJs. This time around, Portland synth pop boosters STRFKR will be behind the turntables (or computers, depending on the gentlemen’s preferences). STRFKR made its name by driving fans into frenzies with ultra-catchy keyboard/guitar combo hooks, and these DJ performances have consistently offered audiences a chance to see great artists trying their hand at something different.
If you go: STRFKR (DJ set), Neumos, Aug 2 ($15). 21+ -- J.S.H.
Movies at King’s *
I’ve already recommended a bunch of places to see films outdoors en masse. But here’s another for the list: the patio at King’s Hardware. The beloved Ballard bar (a Linda Derschang joint) already has an awesome happy hour (with $10 pitchers of microbrews and Skee ball) but it’s also showing Wes Anderson movies on Sunday nights through August. Wes Anderson films + microbrews = endless hipster pairings: Double Mountain Dry Hopped Pale Ale + Bottle Rocket, Anthem Cider + The Royal Tenenbaums, Hilliard’s Copper Lager + Moonrise Kingdom. Playing this first August Sunday: Rushmore.
If you go Movies at King’s, King’s Hardware, Aug. 3 and Sunday evenings for the month of August. (FREE) — N.C.