Friday, September 25, 2015

37. ACT Theater: Hold These Truths

Thirty seven down. Eighteen to go.

ACT's Hold These Truths was an incredibly powerful telling of the Japanese internment story. Even before the show I was reminded by a good friend how recent this history is; her mom, who had been taken to an internment camp as a child, was trying to decide whether or not she would see the show. As the play unfolds, the many references to Seattle neighborhoods, streets, schools and events made the story immediate and uncomfortable. Of course we know this is recent history and that it happened right here, but live theater and a bravura performance brought it home in a particularly compelling way. 

The play, written by Jeanne Sakata, was based on interviews with Gordon Hirabayashi, the University of Washington student who became one of three Japanese Americans who refused internment; along with contemporary news accounts and
Hirabayashi's letters from prison. Actor Ryun Yu received rave reviews for his portrayal of Mr. Hirabayashi. There was no intermission, just a stunning ninety-minute solo performance. 

ACT is, of course, a long-standing pillar of our theater community. Its Mainstage productions such as Hold These Truths are the core of its mission, and ACT has been producing them for over 50 years.  Since 2003 ACT has presented 11 world premieres including seven by local writers. ACT's innovative Central Heating Lab initiative (now known simply as ACTLab) nurtures and supports new works, new talent, and local artists spanning not only theatre but also cabaret, music, dance, spoken word, film, and both visual and performance art. 

ACT has a significant national presence, too.  Since 2006 it has developed or premiered 22 new plays, which have gone on to over 60 productions elsewhere in the country. Its 2012 world premiere musical First Date, (in partnership with The 5th Avenue Theatre) was produced on Broadway, and plays developed at ACT have won the prestigious Steinberg Award for new work.

Shows like Hold These Truths are why we need theaters like ACT. Important stories like this demand to be told in a compelling manner.  It takes a strong, capable professional theater organization to succeed in such a telling.

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