Tag Archives: Ping Chong

‘Good Citizen’: when it did happen here

A Japanese American unfurled this banner the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. Dorothea Lange photographed it in March 1942, just prior to the man's internment. Wikimedia Commons.Japanese American storefront, 1942. Dorothea Lange

By Bob Hicks

In 1935 Sinclair Lewis published his novel It Can’t Happen Here, about the Hitler-style takeover of the United States by a power-grabbing populist president. The book’s title was satiric. Lewis meant that it very much could happen here, and if we didn’t pay attention, it just might.

On February 19, 1942, scant weeks after the Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the rounding-up and “relocation” of Japanese American citizens, mostly from the Western states, into internment camps for the duration of World War II. More than 140,000 people, all of them uprooted from their ordinary lives, ended up in the camps.

Minoru Yasui, the real-life hero of "Good Citizen."On March 28, 1942, little more than a month after the roundup had been set into motion, a young Japanese American man named Minoru Yasui — he’d been born on October 19, 1916, in Hood River, and earned his law degree from the University of Oregon in 1939 — walked into a police station in Portland and dared the officers to arrest him for breaking curfew. They obliged. Yasui landed in jail and eventually in a relocation camp. Yasui wanted to test the constitutionality of the internment law, and his case finally went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that his arrest and incarceration were legal. Yet he kept fighting, during and after the war. He was a Good Citizen.

On Monday, March 28 — 69 years to the day after Yasui’s arrest — Artists Repertory Theatre will present a staged reading of Good Citizen, Portland writer George Taylor‘s play about Yasui’s good fight. The play, which is still getting a few revisions, is a finalist for the 2011 Oregon Book Awards. It’ll be performed at 7:30 p.m. on the theater’s Morrison Stage; tickets at the door only, suggested donation $8.

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Ashland 5: Hal, Jose, a throne of blood

Lord Kuniharu gathers his generals to hear the news of the rebellion. Ensemble. Photo by Jenny Graham.

By Bob Hicks

Art Scatter interrupts its regular programming to bring you a message from the future: It’s not your Daddy’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival anymore.

Not entirely, anyway. You remember the “Ashland style.” Elizabethan costumes on the Elizabethan Stage, broad low comedy breaking up flights of earnest declamation, lines delivered clearly and concisely so you understand the purpose if not always the interior fever of the plays. For decades the festival has made a virtue of old-fashioned verity, and if that’s the way you like it — a goodly number of people do — this season’s Henry IV, Part I is for you: an unruly time bomb of a Prince Hal (John Tufts), a broken-down and overpadded blowhard of a Falstaff (David Kelly), a hot and hardy Hotspur (Kevin Kenerly). This is Shakespeare in the festival tradition, solid as a burgher, tried and true.

And suddenly, that makes it feel almost anachronistic.

Prince Hal (John Tufts, left), heir to the throne, finds the company of Sir John Falstaff (David Kelly) preferable to court. Photo by Jenny Graham.The festival is changing, reinventing itself in front of our eyes. It’s not a revolution, it’s a profound evolution: Ashland has joined the 21st century. This season’s fruit of reinvention includes American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose, a smart and often uproarious piece of agitprop by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash; and Throne of Blood, a visually ravishing stage adaptation by the masterful Ping Chong of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1957 film masterpiece, which was itself a radical reimagining of Macbeth.

That’s on top of a Hamlet with hip-hop overtones and an utterly charming She Loves Me, the exemplar so far of artistic director Bill Rauch’s devotion to the stage musical as a legitimate and important branch of the theatrical family tree. Watching this year’s Henry IV, Part I is edifying and at times even exciting, but it isn’t all that different from taking in an Ashland Shakespeare in 1975 or 1995. American Night, Throne of Blood, Hamlet and She Loves Me? It’s a whole new festival, baby.

Continue reading Ashland 5: Hal, Jose, a throne of blood