Grace First Presents “Manzanar: Story of an American Family”

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Grace First Presbyterian Church

Grace First Presbyterian Church is presenting a special concert reading of Manzanar: Story of an American Family, on Sunday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m.

Several years in the making, “Manzanar” is loosely based on the childhood experiences of Dan Taguchi’s mother and other family members. Its emotional course is charted through big-band, swing and classically orchestral songs that reflect adult anguish, teenage confusion and the bewilderment of children. Tim Dang, East West Players’ producing artistic director, gave the pair a call after hearing a demo tape of the work. “I told Dan and Rus [McCoy], ‘You’ve written a huge play,’ ” Dang said.” ‘How is it that we can help you develop this?’ Manzanar is a very important event in the lives of Japanese Americans,” Dang said, “something which affected not only people who were interned, but generations after.”

“Manzanar: Story of an American Family” chronicles the events in the life of 12 year old Margaret Shimada and her family as their life is shattered due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the escalation of World War II. All hopes and dreams are put on hold when the father is taken away as a spy and the rest of the Shimada family is interned in the Manzanar relocation camp in the high desert of California. Loosely based on the experiences and recollections of Mieko Taguchi (mother of Dan Taguchi, the music collaborator) this musical shows the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

Quotes/Testimonials:

You’ve taken a challenging subject and have fashioned it into a compelling and original show. Throughout, the dialogue, book writing and structure are very good. I like the fact it took a while for Pearl Harbor to happen. When you got to it, because you spend time with this happy family, it landed for me in a way I didn’t anticipate. It was a gutsy choice that paid off for you. The music is very interesting and successful throughout. The blend of the pentatonic scale with American chords, it’s kind of Japanese but it’s kind of American. It was very successful!

– Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell”, “Wicked”, “Pippin”)

” ‘Manzanar,’ a big, splashy musical that [had a] recent dramatic reading (and singing) of the play, with a small orchestra performing, drew a standing-room-only crowd of 800 to the Japanese American Cultural Center [in Los Angeles] — more people than had ever attended a performance at the center.”

– Jonathan P. Glater, New York Times, 5/27/03

The performance will be held in the sanctuary of Grace First Presbyterian Church, on Saturday, February 22 at 3:00 p.m. Grace First Presbyterian Church is located at 3955 Studebaker Rd. at the corner of Studebaker and Los Coyotes Diagonal in Long Beach. The phone number is 562-420-3393, and concert series website is www.gracefirst.org/concert-series. Tickets are $20, and will be available at the door, or advance tickets can be purchased by calling 562-420-3393.

For more information about the concerts, or for interviews, please contact Stan DeWitt, Minister of Music, at 562-420-3393, or stan@gracefirst.org.

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