From the opening moments until the poignant last seconds, actor Joel de la Fuente brilliantly portrays second-generation Japanese-American Gordon Hirabayashi and seamlessly transforms into more than a dozen characters in the acclaimed off-Broadway drama “Hold These Truths,” which opened Thursday at Tenney Theater and runs through March 2. This relevant, timely and must-see Honolulu Theatre for Youth performance was produced by Daniel Dae Kim.
Set in Seattle during World War II, “Hold These Truths” tells the story of Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student who agonizes over the internment of Japanese-Americans. In trying to reconcile his country’s betrayal with his passionate belief in the Constitution, Hirabayashi ultimately takes the United States to court. His eventual victory led President Barack Obama to posthumously award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in April 2012, three months after Hirabayashi passed away.
Here’s what those involved with the HTY play as well as those who’ve seen the show had to say about playwright Jeanne Sakata’s one-man drama about the remarkable Japanese internment activist:
“It’s been an honor to work with Joel de la Fuente at the Epic Theatre Ensemble production in New York and now here in Hawaii. Two-thirds of the people we spoke with after the shows in New York were unfamiliar with the internment history. But here, it is such an inspiration to see how this story is meaningful to so many in Hawaii, and I am touched by the reaction and support for the play.”
— Director Lisa Rothe
“It is so fitting that this production is dedicated to the memory of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye. The story and the delivery of the story reminds me of his quiet strength and the strength of the Japanese-American WWII heroes. This play took us on an incredible journey and made the connection that what was real back then is relevant today.”
— U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
“It’s great to watch a dear friend’s superb performance, and it still amazes me when I see his work go beyond my own recognition of him. I am proud to be able to watch his work and it means so much to share this story with people in Hawaii and give them the opportunity to see him perform live.”
— Daniel Dae Kim on Joel de la Fuentes, a friend since their days together at New York University’s Graduate Acting Program
“Having lived in Hawaii for almost nine years, I recognized how inspiring Gordon Hirabayashi’s story would be here in the islands with the unique connection to World War II through the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion. Bringing this production [to Hawaii] seemed to be a natural fit. It’s a beautifully written, expertly acted and directed piece that ultimately reaffirms what it means to be American. I’m honored to have the opportunity, with HTY, to bring it to Hawaii.”
— Daniel Dae Kim
After the performance, attendees were able to meet Hirabayashi’s family members, along with Kim, Sakata, Rothe and de la Fuente. The reception was hosted by D.K. Kodama and Sansei Restaurant and the beverages were donated by Janis Akuna/Andis Wines.
”Hold These Truths” remaining performances:
• Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. (special panel discussion to follow)
• Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, March 2 at 8 p.m.
• General admission is $20 for adults; $15 for students/seniors; limited premium seating available for $30. Tickets may be ordered online at htyweb.org or by calling HTY at (808) 839-9885.
Amanda Stevens has a passion for writing about inspirational or cause-driven fashion, art and entertainment. She is a freelance writer and former newspaper columnist with more than 10 years of experience in public relations. She is a fund development professional with a heart for the community.