Sunday, June 2, 2019

Gambatte, An American Legacy—IFCC—N. Portland

    A Legacy of Tears…and Hope

    This play is part of the Vanport Mosaic Festival at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave. (mostly only street parking, so plan your time accordingly), through June 5th.  The play is written by Chisao Hata, with contributions from the cast, and directed by Hata and Heath Hyun Houghton.  There is a display of art and information upstairs in their gallery.  For more information, go to their site at

    Gambatte means Perseverance.  One of the main thrusts of this story is the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in Concentration Camps (politely called “Interment” Camps).  These families were uprooted from their homes at the beginning of WWII for America, sent to places in the middle of nowhere, forbidden to speak their language…and lost all rights and property, simply because they were Asian!  A clear case of Racism, as we were also at war with Italy and Germany but there were no camps set up for them.  So, if you simply looked Asian, you lost your familiar world!

    This, of course, is our only example of behavior like this…oops, there was that time, several years before that, when we uprooted many Africans from their homeland and forced them into slave labor here…or, how about that time before them, when Native Americans were uprooted from their lands and forced onto reservations, again, forbidden to speak their own language.  And, also, how about the Mexicans and Central American people being separated from their families and stuffed into inhumane living conditions nowadays.  Whatever happened to “Land of the Free…and All People are Created Equal?!”  An American myth, I guess.  If we can’t learn from our past mistakes, I guess we are, indeed, doomed to repeat them!

    This story is an ensemble piece, relating primarily, the plight on one individual, Grandma (Kathy Hsieh) and her memories of those days, told in words, poetry (Mizuki Shiigi), music (Mitch Imori & Amanda Shannahan) and dance (Thien-Kim Bui & Toshiko Namioka).  The rest of the cast, playing her grand-children and memories/members of her friends and family from those anxious times, are the co-director/writer, Houghton and Ken Yoshikawa, Jenna Yokoyama, Ana Harvey, Kurt Ikeda, Lynn Grannan, Gary Terusaki, Viola Lo Forti, and Aleena Yee.

    This is a feast for the soul and no amount of an attempted summary on my part would do it justice, so you’ll simply have to see it to experience its beauty first hand.  I was moved especially by the interpretive dances, as well as the drummer (Shannah, I assume), all well-modulated and presented by Hata, Houghton and the rest of the creators.  This should be a time of reflection of yesterdays by all involved and spring-boarding, hopefully, to better tomorrows!

    I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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