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Entertainment // Art & Stage
Rasa Fournier

Sharing Consequential Truths

A one-man off-Broadway show is coming to Honolulu Theatre for Youth, thanks to the support of Five-0 actor Daniel Dae Kim. He saw Hold These Truths when it was first presented several months ago in New York and felt it would be a perfect fit for a Hawaii audience. Kim’s friend and fellow actor Joel de la Fuente stars in the production as real-life personality Gordon Hirabayashi, famous for his stand against the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi, whose lone voice of public dissent embroiled him in a 1943 court case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, passed away last year. For his righteous struggle, Hirabayashi was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Even while performing in New York, de la Fuente formulated a dream list of where he would like to present Hirabayashi’s story. Hawaii placed prominently on that list.

“Obviously, there is great resonance in being able to perform Gordon’s story in front of an American audience that has so many Asian-Americans in it, specifically people of Japanese ancestry,” says de la Fuente. “Also, as the home of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu figures prominently in the play. I have both a solemn feeling of responsibility and a simultaneous feeling of giddy artistic openness toward what will happen when the play mixes with the audience here.”

There’s a sense of giddiness all around, with good buddies Kim and de la Fuente reconnecting. The two attended graduate acting school together at NYU, and if you watched the Feb. 11 episode of Hawaii Five-0, you caught a historic moment in their friendship. They share a cop vs. bad guy moment, with Kim questioning a Hawaiian martial arts lua practitioner played by de la Fuente.

“I’ve got to tell you,” laughs Kim, “it was hard to keep a straight face because it’s the first time we’ve ever worked onscreen together in the same scene.”

The two get along so well, they refer to each other as brothers. Kim, whose ethnic background is Korean, attributes his affinity with de la Fuente, a Filipino-American, to their kindred Asian heritage and acting philosophy.

“This journey as an Asian-American in show business is a tricky one, filled with pitfalls, and it helps to have someone like Joel to share it with,” says Kim, elaborating on what it means to be an Asian-American actor. “Often, Asian-Americans are limited to playing people of their own ethnicity. I find that to be something unique to us. African-Americans from Uganda are not asked to only play someone who is from Uganda. It’s liberating when an actor of Joel’s caliber who happens to be Filipino-American is not subject to that kind of specification. Just because he’s not Japanese-American doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand what it means to grow up as an American looking like an Asian.”

Though Hold These Truths tackles weighty matter, with Kim as producer and de la Fuente in the spotlight, there’s plenty of vibrancy in the mix.

“We know about internment camps and ascribe ‘serious’ and ‘sober’ to that knowledge,” points out de la Fuente. “Gordon, in the moment, does not have that same perspective. He’s in the trenches, so to speak, of the present moment – and from that vantage point, a lot of humor can present itself.”

“There are moments that are poignant and others that are very funny,” agrees Kim. “It’s a sign of a well-written piece when you can encompass all the different facets of a person’s personality. This show raises a lot of issues, but at the end of the day it’s the story of a man and his life.”

Kim admits a personal motive in bringing the play here – it fulfills his craving for world class theater. Beyond facilitating the show’s Hawaii debut, Kim says he’s leaving the creative details and decisions to de la Fuente, director Lisa Rothe and playwright Jeanne Sakata: “They did such a wonderful job with it in New York, so the best thing HTY and I can do is get out of the way so the production can breathe and have a new life here in Honolulu.”

the TICKET stub

When: Feb. 21-March 2, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Tenney Theatre (at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, 229 Queen Emma Square).

Cost: $15 for students/ seniors; $20 general, $30 premium seating.

More Info: 839-9885, htyweb.org

ALSO SHOWING

Combustible Beauty

A sprout of a plant peeks up from a patch of dusty earth and craggy rocks – a little glimmer of life in a forsaken corner of the earth populated by souls molded from the soil of strife. They know nothing but guns, death and jail time. This is TAG’s production of King Hedley II (runs through March 10, tag hawaii.net, 722-6941).

The more the world conspires against them, the brighter these human embers burn. Quantae Love is majestic, dynamite in motion as the titular King Hedley. He struggles to make ends meet even as he consumes himself with making his world right, which means caring for his pregnant wife and confronting his violence-riddled past.

Gritty performances from each character tear at your gut, while simultaneously filling your heart to bursting. Hedley’s wife, Tonya, (Wendy Pearson) is anxious about bringing a child into such a bitter world. Mister (Josiah D. James) is Hedley’s impressionable, endearing partner in crime. There’s Hedley’s long-suffering but tenacious mom, Ruby, (Lillian Jones), her suave flame Elmore (William Self), a petty swindler with a dangerous streak simmering just beneath the surface, and eccentric soothsayer Stool Pigeon (Deborah Pearson). Come ready to leave shaken by the nuclear fusion, but ready to enjoy some moments of spontaneous levity as well.

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