‘A True American Hero’

Ryun Yu plays Gordon Hirabayashi and more than 30 other characters in “Hold These Truths.” (Photo by Patrick Weishampel/Blankeye.tv)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

PASADENA — “Hold These Truths,” the story of Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2002), has returned to the Southern California stage, and it couldn’t be more timely.

The one-man show, starring Ryun Yu, written by Jeanne Sakata and directed by Jessica Kubzansky, officially opened at the Pasadena Playhouse last Sunday and runs through June 25. It originated in Los Angeles in 2007 and has been touring the country ever since. In addition to Yu, Hirabayashi has been played by Joel de la Fuente and Greg Watanabe.

As a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Hirabayashi initially believed that his status as a citizen born and raised in the U.S. would protect him from discriminatory treatment. When the government imposed curfew and later exclusion orders on all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, he turned himself in and challenged the constitutionality of the government’s actions. The Supreme Court ruled against him in 1943, but his case was reopened decades later and he finally achieved justice in federal court in 1987.

Yu plays the civil rights icon as well as more than 30 other people he meets during his journey. Without sets or backdrops and with only a few chairs as props, Yu mesmerized the audience and received a standing ovation at the end of the 90-minute show.