‘Wide American Earth’ Opens

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An opening party for “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story” was held Sept. 13 at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. The Smithsonian traveling display takes a sweeping look at how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of the nation’s history.

The party featured performances by DANakaDAN + Crew Love (pictured) and The Fung Brothers.

Speakers included (from left) Gordon Yamate, chair of JANM’s Board of Trustees; Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; Tim Dang, producing artistic director of EWP; and (not pictured) Greg Kimura, JANM president and CEO.

“Our American Voice,” a two-person show featuring traci kato-kiryama and Johnny Kwon and directed by Jennifer Chang, was premiered in the gallery. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo, except photo of Konrad Ng)

About “Our American Voice”

Six Asian Pacific American playwrights and theatre organization East West Players have come together to share these intimate stories and shed light on communities that have faced — and overcome — great adversity. Performances will be given Saturdays (Sept. 21 and 28, Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26) at 1 p.m.

The 45-minute show is divided into the following segments:

• Opening prologue by Alison M. de La Cruz

• “Taking Flight” (excerpt) by Judy Soo Hoo. Katherine Cheung defied family tradition and crossed racial lines to become the first licensed Asian American female aviator in 1932. During the 1930s, she barnstormed across California, and her fame as a stunt pilot led to an invitation to join Amelia Earhart’s Ninety-Nines, an all-female flying club.

• “Forgotten Homeland” by Ova Saopeng. Lao American siblings Soukki and Joy, refugees from the Vietnam War era, must confront each other about a return trip to Laos. How will they reconnect with a homeland that has long been forgotten and is so far away?

• “Allos” (excerpt) by Giovanni Ortega. When young Alos arrives in the U.S., we witness his journey to find employment as well as acceptance amid the hardships of the Great Depression and the bigotry of that era.

• “Dying for Love” by D’Lo. An immigrant Sri Lankan nurse shares her conclusions on love and loneliness in America.

• “Hold These Truths” (excerpt) by Jeanne Sakata. At Seattle’s University of Washington following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a curfew is announced for all people of Japanese ancestry, requiring them to be in their homes by 8 p.m. Gordon Hirabayashi, a Nisei student at UW, reluctantly obeys the orders until one night when he rushes back to his YMCA dorm — and suddenly has an epiphany that stops him in his tracks.

• “Duty and Desire” by Vivian Keh-Hue. In the midst of the trendy Koreatown club scene, an unexpected reunion occurs between childhood friends Penelope and Chester. While quick to judge one another regarding their choices in life, both characters find themselves driven by values common to the Korean American experience, having to navigate the rift between duty and desire.

“I Want the Wide American Earth” runs through Oct. 27. Info: (213) 625-0414, www.janm.org.

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