A Word In Edgewise: Hold These Truths and Keep Holding

Photo by Laura Pates for PlayMakers Repertory Company.
Photo by Laura Pates for PlayMakers Repertory Company.
Photo by Laura Pates for PlayMakers Repertory Company.

“Hold These Truths.” Photo by Laura Pates for PlayMakers Repertory Company.

As The Parchman Hour plays out on the Guthrie’s McGuire Proscenium Stage, a story from another troubled time unfolds upstairs in the Dowling Studio.

Hold These Truths, Jeanne Sakata’s solo play with Joel de la Fuente, chronicles the journey of Gordon Hirabayashi (1918–2012) who, in 1942, resisted the internment of fellow Japanese Americans during World War II and for which he spent time in federal prison.

The play’s importance resides in the fact that shortly after Hirabayashi’s retirement in 1983, documents were uncovered that clearly showed evidence of government misconduct in 1942, revealing information that at that time had been withheld from the Supreme Court of the United States.

After the case was reheard by federal courts and the conviction overturned in 1987, Hirabayashi, then 69, said, “There was a time when I felt that the Constitution failed me. But with the reversal in the courts and in public
statements from the government, I feel that our country has proven that the Constitution is worth upholding. The U.S. government admitted it made a mistake. A country that can do that is a strong country. I have more faith and allegiance to the Constitution than I ever had before.”

Actor de la Fuentes first played Hirabayashi in New York in 2012. Opening again in the Guthrie de la Fuente shares, “It has been an unexpected privilege to get to work on this play over several years — and an artistic gift. So often a play will close and I will immediately think, “Oh, now I get it! I wish I had another shot at that!” Hold These Truths has given me the opportunity to revisit and re-experience Jeanne’s wonderful play several times. There is a depth to the work that can only happen when you get to live with something over time.”

De la Fuentes states, “The play could not be more relevant to today’s audience. Almost 75 years after the Japanese American internment, we have politicians in this country calling for the removal of other Americans based solely on their physical appearance or religious beliefs. We have citizens being all too willing to surrender their civil liberties in a climate of fear. “Gordon’s struggle is our struggle. His courage and conviction should be an example for us all.”

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