Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica College Play Selected for Prestigious Festival
By Lookout Staff
January 15, 2012 -- Santa Monica College’s premiere production of a commissioned play about the dramatic struggles of a family in a World War II Japanese internment camp has been selected for the prestigious 2013 Regional Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival.
Written by Bruce Smith, an award-winning playwright and SMC’s former public information officer, and directed by Perviz Sawoski, an award-winning director, who is also a performer and teacher at SMC, “Heart Mountain” was staged at the college in November to sold-out houses.
The play -- which combines a traditional narrative with dance, martial arts and powerful imagery -- revolves around a fictional family torn apart when its members are forced to choose sides in the conflict that erupted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
During the war, Japanese-Americans were asked to swear allegiance to the U.S. and denounce any allegiance to the Empire of Japan. Those who did both could be drafted into the U.S. Armed Services; those refused were sent to an internment camp.
Heart Mountain, one of the interment camps set up for the relocation of Japanese and Japanese American citizens in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “became a center for a draft resistance movement,” Smith said.
“Heart Mountain” was one of seven plays selected from 179 productions at 55 colleges and universities in Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii. The plays will be performed at the regional festival, which will be held February 13 to 15 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles.
“This story needs to be told,” said Perviz Sawoski, who chairs the Theatre Arts Department. “I am excited that the work of our student actors and tech crew will be seen and appreciated at the regional level.”
“Heart Mountain” was inspired by research that included interviews with former camp internees and their relatives, as well as other sources.
Smith, whose plays have been produced in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Minnesota, wove the testaments and the background provided by the subjects into the tapestry of the play.
It was the second project Sawoski -- who has directed and choreographed numerous plays and musicals at SMC and elsewhere -- worked on with Smith, who won the 2011 playwriting awards in New York and Ohio for his play “After Us the Savage God.”
In 2008, the two collaborated on a play called “Butterfly Wings,” a story about college students dealing with wartime issues. While “Heart Mountain” also deals with war and the decisions it forces, it does so on a larger and more specific canvas.
“I am still shocked that over 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated for no reason other than their ethnicity and the anti-Japanese paranoia that existed at the time,” Sawoski said.
“The hardships and hostilities suffered by the incarcerated people should not be forgotten, and citizens have to make sure this history is never repeated,” she said.
“Heart Mountain” is the second SMC production in a row selected for the regional festival. Last year, “Cesar and Ruben,” a musical about the life of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, was one of 11 productions picked for the regional festival.
Previous SMC productions selected for the regional festival include “Once on this Island” in 1997, “Vanya” in 1999, and “Slavery,” written by then-student Jonathan Payne, in 2002. “Once on this Island” and “Slavery” went on to the finals at the Kennedy Center. (Because of budget cuts, full productions are no longer performed at the Kennedy Center.)
Fundraising performances of “Heart Mountain” will be held at the college prior to the festival Friday, February 1 through Sunday, February 3.
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in the SMC Theatre Arts Studio Stage on the main campus, 1900 Pico Boulevard. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door (including a service charge). Call (310) 434-4319 Monday through Friday or go to http://www.smc.edu/AcademicPrograms/TheatreArts/Pages/Studio-Stage-Productions.aspx
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