The work of the Crusaders, although obscure and unknown, was a means by which young people in confinement were able to prove that no physical boundaries could stop them from transcending beyond the 'barbed wires.'
- Yuri Kochiyama (aka "Mary Nakahara")#YuriKochiyama
At the invitation of Rogue Machine Theatre in Hollywood, "Bits of Paradise: Kochiyama's Crusaders" will be presented as a staged reading on July 19 (3pm and 8pm) and July 20 (8pm). The play, by Marlan Warren in collaboration with Ariel Kayoko Labasan focuses on a women's movement founded by renowned human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama when she was known as 20-year old "Mary Nakahara" and incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps during World War II with her fellow Japanese Americans. Calling themselves "The Crusaders," the girls and women mobilized a morale-boosting letter-writing campaign that ensured that "any soldier missing a letter" would receive mail.
"The performances will be more 'staged' than 'reading,'" explained Warren, who co-produces with Labasan, and directs the play. "Some actors may not be holding scripts, and there will be action sequences, props and costumes."
Warren originally directed and produced "Bits of Paradise" as a Reader's Theater piece at The Marsh Theatre in San Francisco in 2008.
"Bits of Paradise places its footprint on the timeline of a much-needed theatrical examination of the Asian American journey."--Asian Week
Recently, the play was reworked and re-titled "Bits of Paradise: Kochiyama's Crusaders," after Warren joined forces with actor/playwright Ariel Kayoko Labasan, whose solo show, "Yuri Speaks Out!" played to packed houses at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Labasan will reprise her role as Yuri Kochiyama, portraying the activist from ages 20 to 84.
"My first encounter with Yuri Kochiyama was while I was in New York," said Labasan. "As an actor, I was seeking out roles that made me feel braver. I searched online for 'strong Asian American women in history'...and suddenly she popped up!"
"We wish to thank Rogue Machine Theatre for this amazing opportunity," said Warren. "They are currently featuring 'Les Blancs' by Lorraine Hansberry, and their set looks exactly like the interior of a Japanese American Internment barracks."
"Before she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and before she held Malcolm X while he lay dying and before she occupied the Statue of Liberty in protest of injustice, Yuri Kochiyama was a young woman in love named Mary Nakahara whose fiancé, Bill Kochiyama, had volunteered to fight in order to prove loyalty to the U.S. while the people he loved were held in an American concentration camp.
"It sounds like a very dark time, and in fact it was," said Warren. "But the contents of The Crusaders Scrapbook in the Japanese American National Museum are full of humor and cheer and flirtations." In 2001, Warren was granted permission by JANM to adapt the scrapbook into a play for educational purposes.
The cast members are a mix of Asian American heritage, including two--Douglas N. Hachiya and Scott Shima--who have family members who fought in the legendary 442nd Combat Team.
The play is an ensemble effort, as Warren notes: "Actor Mack Wei has outfitted the men with uniforms and rifles from a short film he made, and Progressive Rags print shop owner, Radical Jack, in Miami, Fla. has donated three 'Free Mumia Abul-Jamal' t-shirts for Yuri to wear."
The young women playing The Crusaders will also appear as octogenarians being interviewed for a documentary. In fact, Warren has been making a film with the elderly "Original Crusaders" since 2008 ("What did you do in the War, Mama?: Kochiyama's Crusaders").
"Working with this material has been a healing process," said Warren. "For those whose family history incurred these scars, it is very personal. And for those of us who feel empathetic with its story of loss and love, it is also very meaningful."
Play Title: "Bits of Paradise: Kochiyama's Crusaders"
Playwright/Director/Co-Producer/Actor: Marlan Warren
Co-Collaborator/Actor/Co-Producer: Ariel Kayoko Labasan
Cast: Ariel Kayoko Labasan, Douglas N. Hachiya; Scott Shima; Mack Wei; Jacky Jung; Zoë Kim and Marlan Warren.
Location: Rogue Machine Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood, CA 90029
Performance Dates and Times:
Wed. July 19, 2017 (3pm and 8pm)
Thurs. July 20, 2017 (8pm)
Doors open 1 hour before showtime.
Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office on the day of performance or
on the Rogue Machine Theatre "Buy Tickets" Page at: http://bit.ly/2tR3FqH
Please do not call the theater for reservations.
Rogue Machine Theatre Website: http://www.roguemachinetheatre.net
For more info:
Play Website: http://bit.ly/2tSXRto
#ArielKayokoLabasan #ArielLabasan #Yuri Speaks Out! #MarlanWarren #GoForBroke #TheCrusaders #YuriKochiyama #JANM #JapaneseAmericanInternment #WomenHeroes