Professor James Leedy former chair of the Kansas City Art Institute Sculpture Department. The studio included a foundry.


Jeanne Sakata Author “Hold These Truths   Featuring: JackWiant

Interview Produced By: Patrick Keady


Hold These Truths


A Must-See Theatrical Event

“Hold These Truths,” currently running at the Pasadena Playhouse, is a play by Jeanne Sakata, which tells the story of the forgotten hero Gordon Hirabayashi.  It is a story of one man’s struggle against a government that stripped him of his status as a citizen.  The story of a man who held to his principles and insisted he be treated as a human being with inalienable rights.

As a second generation Japanese-American, Hirabayashi grew up in a society that shunned and excluded him. Yet as familiar as he was with racial prejudice, he believed in the Constitution and expected his government to protect his rights as a citizen. 

Those expectations were crushed after the attack on Pearl Harbor when the government forcibly moved everyone with Japanese ancestry into interment camps far from their homes.  Given only a few days to pack, Japanese-Americans lost nearly everything they had… homes, farms, businesses, possessions.

Hirabayashi was arrested multiple times for refusing to cooperate with the government.  His case reached the Supreme Court where, to Hirabayashi’s shock, the Court upheld his convictions.

After the War, Hirabayashi obtained a Ph.D. in sociology and taught for many years at a university in Canada.  After he retired at age 65, he was contacted by a political science professor in California who had just discovered certain documents related to Hirabayashi’s case.

These documents showed that the government lawyers in his Supreme Court hearing had suppressed evidence… evidence that showed the government knew there was no military reason for the exclusion order creating the internment camps.  In 1987 Hirabayashi’s case was re-heard by the Supreme Court, and all of his convictions were vacated.

The Play’s author, Jeanne Sakata, is an accomplished actress.  She wrote the script more than ten years ago, and it is (so far) her only play.  She based the work on extensive interviews with Gordon Hirabayashi before his death and on his correspondence and papers, which are housed at the University of Washington.  The play is a one-actor drama that tells Hirabayashi’s life story in 90 minutes on an empty stage with four simple chairs as the only props. 

The current production is acted by Ryun Yu who originated the role ten years ago when it opened in Los Angeles at the East West Players.  Yu gives a tour de force performance bringing out the pathos and tragedy of the story, but with a light touch that shows Hirabayashi’s humor and generous spirit.  Although Yu gives several impassioned speeches in the performance, the play is never shrill or pompous.  It lets the events in Hirabayashi’s life speak for themselves.

When asked if Ryun Yu’s performance had changed over the last decade, Sakata said, “Oh yes, even tonight I saw him do things he never did before.” 

Although it deals with events that took place 75 years ago, the play is not just a historic drama.  Current events have now made the work more relevant than ever before.  It is a must-see performance for anyone concerned about the issues facing our society today.

Photo: Jim Cox Photography