Shoe Box Plays

By Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Features a selection of plays that chronicle the experiences of Japanese Americans from the hardships of the Depression of the 1930s, through the bitterness and dislocation of the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, through the rise of Asian American consciousness and pride in the late 1960s and 1970s to today.

"Laughter and False Teeth" is perhaps the most famous of the plays presented since it was included in The Big AIIIEEEEE!: An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature (1991), a staple book used in college Asian American Studies classes across the country. Procuring false teeth in an internment camp becomes a tragicomic observation of the breakdown of morality and decency in such places where even the dentist has to be bribed to do substandard work. "Kisa Gotami" (The Parable of the Mustard Seed) has the distinction of being George Takei's first role as an actor, a decade before his pioneering work as Sulu on Star Trek.

"The Betrayed" a play that was included in Hiroshi's earlier book published by AACP, Swimming in the American, is perhaps the most powerful work, presenting as it does the fundamental conflicts between those Japanese Americans that cooperated with the government to prove their loyalty as Americans during the years of internment and those that resisted because the government had violated their rights as Americans.

These are just a few of the plays in this book composed over the past 60 years and stored literally in a shoe box.