Over the past summer, we were fortunate enough to interview Greg Watanabe, an American actor who blew us away with his performance in the one-man-play Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata. In our interview with Watanabe, we got an exclusive look into his experience and past with acting, as well as what it was like to shift from all of these different genres into Broadway for his latest production, Allegiance.
Though Watanabe is an actor who now lives in Los Angeles, he describes his earlier experience with theater as primarily stage work. In particular, he expresses that not only was his role in Allegiance a “pinnacle” moment for him, he confidently and repeatedly states that it was his “dream role”. He describes his evolution in Asian American theater as a learning process through various roles which as developed his knowledge and passion for his work.
In the 90-minute one-man-play Hold These Truths, Watanabe inhabits the character of Gordon Hirabayashi, a civil rights hero during curfew and exclusion orders during the Japanese American incarcerations of WWII, as well as at least a half dozen other characters. After extreme resistance during the elimination of his people's civil liberties, his case goes to the Supreme Court where it faces defeat. These cases were later reopened in the 80s and the convictions were overturned.
He states that the audience of his performance here will have a more detailed understanding of what happened during this time simply due to the different emotions that are conveyed through different genres. Watanabe talks more specifically about the various demands and venues from both Hold These Truths and Allegiance and how they have impacted him and his audiences. The smaller venue of his one-man performance focuses more on storytelling and depiction whereas a larger theater for a musical Broadway performance full of song and dance may convey a much different sense of emotion.
Watanabe’s dream role of Mike Masaoka in Allegiance touches on many different aspects of life during the Japanese American incarceration in World War II. He describes this performance as deeply affecting and identifies a pattern of this isolation and separation that we see occurring now among certain communities. More specifically, he compares these patterns to Islamophobia and anti-Arab movements that exist throughout our society today. He also comments on the use of the incarceration of Japanese Americans to justify the current situation we find ourselves in today and the profound impact it has on him personally and the country as a whole.
Allegiance is coming to select movie theaters for December 7th and 9th only!