By Eddie Wong
Silence… sadness… strength… solace – these words rippled through my mind as I watched the preview performance of Tales of Clamor, the new play about the Japanese American redress/reparations movement, performed on Feb. 1, 2019 at the Aratani Theater at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles. Written by traci kato-kiriyama in collaboration with circus choreographer Kennedy Kabasares, the play is a mesmerizing, magical theatrical experience that utilizes mime, dance/movement, circus arts, traditional drama, music and multi-media projections to explore complex themes of transformation and trauma. We see the personal transformation of young activists and Nisei and Issei as they worked together to present testimony before the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings which were held nationally in 1981. Tales of Clamor also reveals the deep trauma that was caused by the incarceration which stripped people of their constitutional rights and economic livelihood. The play also gives voice to those whose trauma ran so deep that they did not wish to ever speak about the incarceration.
Seven actors portraying multiple roles tell poignant stories of the loss and recovery of pride. Several plays have touched upon “the camps,” but this play is the first one to explore how the redress movement broke decades of silence.
At the beginning of the play Kem (portrayed by traci kato-kiriyama), a writer, and Eddie, a circus artist (portrayed by Kennedy Kabasares), debate whether or not to develop the redress story into a play, and once they agree on how to do it, the stories come alive. The National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR) now known as Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress was actively involved with traci and Kennedy to develop stories in the play. I won’t describe the episodic plot because it’s best for you to experience its many layers as it unfolds.
The audience sits on the stage which creates an intimate experience. Perhaps you will be as enthralled as I was by the PULLproject Ensemble’s video about Tales of Clamor. This video was directed by Alli Nakamura. (Note: clicking on the link will bring you to PULLproject Ensemble’s website and then you will need to re-enter www.eastwindezine.com to continue reading the article and viewing the four other videos.)
Following the preview performance, a “share back” session was held where audience members could ask questions and learn more about the play’s creative from the producers and cast members. Here is a brief video with selections from the Feb. 1 “share back” session.
We also had a chance to ask traci and Kennedy how they developed the play and the significance of the redress/reparations movement both within the Japanese American community and to the larger society.
Several members of NCRR attended the preview performance. In this video, Kathy Masaoka, Jan Tokumaru, Miya Iwataki and Richard Katsuda discuss the collaboration between NCRR and the PULLproject Ensemble.
Lance, Stephanie, and Nora, audience members at the preview performance, spoke about how the play affected them.