Christmas Cheer in J-Town

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Front row, from left, Mike Hagiwara, Zoey Rika Chau, Rodney Kageyama and Ken Takemoto; back row, Cesar Cipriano and Marcus Choi.

Actor/producers Mike Hagiwara and Emily Kuroda are creating an all-new celebration of Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 18 on the David Henry Hwang stage at East West Players and the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Little Tokyo, combining two performances and a Holiday Crafts Fair outside in the courtyard running throughout the day.

“A Little Tokyo Christmas” will feature a wide array of Asian American singers, actors, dancers, sketch comedy groups, and variety acts. Sab Shimono, Amy Hill, Takayo Fischer, Gedde Watanabe, Alvin Ing, Deborah Nishimura, Jason Oymun Fong, Kerry Carnahan, Helen Ota, J.T. Tamaki, Diana Toshiko, Yumi Iwama, Rodney Kageyama, Mike Dalager, Ariel Felix, Dexter Echeverri, Cold Tofu, hereandnow, and numerous surprise guests will be performing in this fast-moving variety show.

“We’ve got so many incredible performers, because nearly everyone we asked said yes,” said Hagiwara.  “We have so many incredible performers in our community, so many people who are either stars or really ought to be stars, and when we told them we had this idea for a holiday show, something for the community, everyone wanted to be a part of it.”

Fischer, whose credits include “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” said, “Little Tokyo and East West Players evoke a strong, positive emotional response in me and when Emily Kuroda and Mike Hagiwara asked, I felt privileged and honored to be a part of this.”

Hagiwara was in the process of lining up a couple of dance groups as well, laughing that “It could be hip-hop or it could be hula.” Deborah Nishimura, who starred in numerous musicals over the years for East West Players, quotes Charles Dickens, saying, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year,” explaining perhaps in part why she wants to participate in this celebration.

Cold Tofu Artistic Director Helen Ota said, “Having a special event like this in Little Tokyo is a terrific way to bring the community together to connect with one another and to celebrate the spirit of giving and sharing.”

A big part of “A Little Tokyo Christmas” will be the Holiday Crafts Fair, which is being organized by the producers and writer/artist/community activist Traci Kato-Kiriyama; it will feature jewelry, quilts, pillows, pet clothing, gift cards, Christmas ornaments, and T-shirts. Vendors will include both veterans of the various craft fairs and newcomers, guaranteeing a wide array of items small and big for stocking stuffers, Christmas gifts, decorations, and more.  Even if people don’t have time for the performances, the Holiday Craft Fair will be running throughout the day from 1 to 7 p.m., “so people can do the Craft Fair, the show, or both,” said Kuroda.

There will be two presentations of the performances at 2 and 7 p.m.; they are scheduled to run two hours, including the intermission. Don’t miss this chance to spend a few hours with some of the pioneers of Asian American performance as well as a rich mix of talent from the many performers and performance groups that have sprung up or grown up in Los Angeles over the past few years.

“It’s about our community – the Asian American community and the performing community,” said Hagiwara. “It just started out as an idea for a Christmas show but it’s evolved into something else, a celebration of the incredible talent we have in our community, and a chance to have some laughs and some fun.”  Proceeds from the event will go towards East West Players’ fundraising.

General admission for the performance is $18; seniors, students, and children are $15. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at brownpapertickets.com.

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