George Takei has not been quiet about his experience, helping to raise up the experiences of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. The United States labeled these citizens as enemies, and imprisoning them into “internment camps.”
Allegiance is the story of a Japanese American family living through this time. It’s a powerful musical performance, following the experience of the (fictional) Kimura family who are sent from their home in Salinas, California to Heart Mountain Camp in Wyoming.
Sam Kimura seeks to prove his patriotism by fighting for his country in the war, but his sister, Kei, fiercely protests the government’s treatment of her people. An uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, Allegiance follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves. (Summary from the Allegiance, The Musical, website).
It’s billed as a story about the “redemptive power of love,” and it truly is. This musical is powerful art. While it was being preformed on stage the show was filmed, and limited screenings are being held in order to let more people be able to see and hear this show. I was lucky enough to go to the first of these screenings (another round is scheduled for February 19th – to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, some places have already started selling tickets).
I attended with two friends, both familiar with this terrible piece of our history. But even knowing the history it was based on, this story struck us into tears and silence. It felt like I had been smacked in the heart.
It raises questions about how to react, how to resist, when and how to take a stand. There are parallels and messages that can be drawn which might not resonate so heavily in other times. It follows the family as their rights are pulled away from them, framed as “patriotic sacrifice” and “contribution to the war effort.” There is a struggle with how to not make themselves a target “do not fight the storm,” keep your head down. But as their rights, their homes and their belongings are taken away, the sense of how to react changes.
There’s a word we will say, to help get through each day. We will bear any nightmare with a simple refrain. Gaman. Sturdy and sure, keep faith and endure…. Hold your head high, carry on. – Allegiance, the Musical.
How do you fight injustice? The members of the Kimura family pick different approaches, all trying to do what is right. This show is beautifully done, with powerful symbolism woven throughout, humor sprinkled at just the right moments, and some amazing talent. Allegiance plays across many levels and is well worth the effort to go and see.
Art is such a beautiful expression, it can evoke emotions and speak to truths that can be hard to articulate. It also can often serve as a powerful tool for change, for revolution, to spark people to stand up and make changes.
This series is going to explore the power of art, by looking at actual art. Sometimes it may be written, or it may be visual (who knows, maybe I’ll convince someone to share auditory art with us as well). This will run the third Wednesday of every month, for as long as I can keep it going! (Interested in contributing? Let me know!)