the journey so far...
This page will tell you of the incredible history of this musical and why "MANZANAR" is ready for a professional, full production.
how it began...
In 1988, high school friend, Dan Taguchi approached Rus McCoy with a troubling story. Dan's parents had gathered he and his siblings together to tell them that when they were children, their families were taken from their homes and placed in a "relocation camp" that was, in truth, a prison. At first Dan felt he was being lied to. He firmly believed that something so reprehensible could never happen in America. When his parents shared photos and news clippings, Dan was outraged. Why was this never taught in school? Why did his parents, aunts and uncles keep this hidden for so long and also wear it like a coat of shame when they were the victims, not the criminals?
Dan knew Rus was a writer and composer so he wanted Rus to write a musical about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II so the world would know of America's dirty secret. Rus declined for multiple reasons: 1) He was not Japanese. 2) The internment was not part of his cultural history and 3) He could not wrap his mind around how to turn such a bleak subject into a musical that an audience could sit through.
Over the next 10 years Dan would share books and news clippings about the internment. With all of that input, Rus realized that; despite the cultural differences, as an African American, he definitely understood prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. But the true turning point was interviewing Dan's mother, Mieko. She told Rus that, as a little girl of 9, she loved singing while in the camp and that she also learned to smoke cigarettes and play Pinochle. At that point, Rus knew he had the inspiration for his lead character, Margaret Shimada. Rus then interviewed other internment camp survivors and he was off and running.
By 1997, Rus had plotted out the libretto and started writing music and lyrics. Dan assisted Rus with the music of the first few compositions until the demands of his teaching job and birth of his first child, Jin, took his focus elsewhere leaving Rus to continue on to complete the bulk of the musical on his own. In 2001, Dan and Rus approached the premiere Asian theatre troupe, East West Players, who excitedly took the project on, intrigued because no one had even taken on the challenge of musicalizing this subject matter before. "MANZANAR" was off to a strong start resulting in multiple sold out readings.
Where we have gone...
March 30, 2014 -
Union Church of Los Angeles (CA)
April 21, 2013 -
Faith United Methodist Church (Torrance, CA)
September 30, 2012 -
Union Church of Los Angeles (CA)
(Proceeds from the September performance were donated to the Japanese Relief Fund.)
February, 2012 -
ASCAP/DreamWorks Musical Theater Workshop (Burbank, CA)
Out of hundreds of submissions Manzanar was one of the four musicals selected to be showcased at this workshop! The workshop is conducted by Broadway great
The 2012 workshop was held at the DreamWorks' studios located in Los Angeles, CA. This workshop is attended by producers, directors, writers, and actors from both stage and screen. Both Rus and Dan were very excited about "MANZANAR" being chosen!
June 18, 2011 -
San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center (CA)
Between 2003 and 2006-
65+ mini-performances of "MANZANAR" touring various middle and high schools in California as an education tool funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.
March 30, 2003-
The George & Sakaye Aratani Japan American Theatre produced by the East West Players (Los Angeles, CA)
March 2 and 3, 2002-
East West Players/David Henry Hwang Theatre (Los Angeles, CA)
4/03/2003 - Manzanar awarded a Certificate of Commendation
by the city of Carson, CA
3/14/2002 - Asian Week article by Sam Chu Lin
“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, its kind of Japanese but it’s kind of American. It was very successful!”
(Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) DreamWorks/ASCAP Workshop in Los Angeles
February 10, 2012
"It was a deeply moving experience. The composers really know how to write music. It was great! What's needed now is the money to make it a plush production.”
(The original Star Trek's Mr. Sulu and one of the founders of the East West Players) Quote from Asian Week magazine, March 13, 2002.