Virginia Stage Company is presenting Jeanne Sakata’s award-winning solo play, Hold These Truths, helmed by Seema Sueko and starring Greg Watanabe at The Wells Theatre, 108 E. Tazewell St., Norfolk, VA, as part of Season 42: A Season Like No Other.
An unsung American hero, Gordon Hirabayashi, fought passionately for the Constitution against an unexpected adversary: his own country. During World War II, he refused to report to a relocation camp with thousands of families of Japanese descent, launching a 50-year journey from college to the courtroom and eventually to a Presidential Medal of Freedom. An inspiring true story of conscience amidst conflict, it is a one-man portrait of American character at its best.
The creative team include Set Designer Alan E. Muraoka, Costume Designer Jeni M. Hartman, Sound Designer Andre Pluess and Stage Manager Brittany Sandford.
In rep with the production of Hold These Truths, VSC will also present Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise. Dear Jack, Dear Louise tells the story of a military doctor and a Broadway chorus performer’s unlikely romance, entirely via letters, during WWII. Performances for both Dear Jack, Dear Louise and Hold These Truths will run in rep from October 17th – November 7th at the Wells Theatre. Visit www.vastage.org for more information.
Greg Watanabe made his Broadway debut in Allegiance and was recently seen in Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at Victory Gardens, The City Theatre Pittsburgh, Merrimack Repertory Theatre. He has performed in the world premiere productions of The Ballad Of Yachiyo (Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Public Theater-New York), The Summer Moon (A Contemporary Theater, South Coast Repertory Theatre), The Happy Ones (South Coast Rep, L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination for Best Featured Performance) and Extraordinary Chambers (The Geffen Playhouse, Ovation nomination for Best Featured Actor). Other appearances include Golden Child (Signature Theatre), Hold These Truths (Perseverance Theater, New Century Theater), Yellow Face (Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, San Diego Theater Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play).
Seema Sueko grew up in Honolulu, with a Pakistani father and a Japanese American mother. Conversations about the arts, politics and community wove through her upbringing, stitching the tapestry of her core belief: theater is transformative and can contribute to building successful communities when we intentionally activate this art form for the public benefit. Now based in the Washington, D.C. region, Seema directs stage, film, consensus organizing and R&D projects and productions for theaters, think tanks, and the greater good.
Seema currently serves as director of the new musical in development, Land of Smiles, by Erin Kamler. She is also directing the Vernon Park Play for Shakespeare in Clark Park. In addition, she is a consultant to Arena Stage, focused on strategic thinking, the Theater Artists Marketplace and the Artistic Director Intensive, two programs she created when she served as Deputy Artistic Director of Arena. She recently directed the film Veterans Day 2020 for the Atlantic Council think tank and Arena. Also at Arena, she directed the world premiere of Sharyn Rothstein’s Right to be Forgotten, revivals of The Heiress and The Price, Lydia Diamond’s Smart People and spearheaded the Power Play Summit. R&D projects include using theater to improve empathy, compassion and well-being in older adults, the Green Theater Choices Toolkit, and adapting Consensus Organizing to theater. Past leadership positions include Associate Artistic Director of Pasadena Playhouse and Co-Founder & Executive Artistic Director of Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego. In addition, she has directed or acted in plays and musicals at theaters across the U.S. including Denver Center, Ford’s Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, People’s Light, The Old Globe, Yale Rep, 5th Avenue Theatre, Mo`olelo, Native Voices, among others.
Recognition and awards include: SDCF Zelda Fichandler Finalist, Chicago Jeff Awards, NAACP San Diego Lorraine Hansberry Award, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Artistic and Cultural Achievement Award, Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theater Artist of the Year, San Diego Craig Noel Awards, and the California State Assembly Shirley N. Weber Award.
Seema earned her M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago and she serves on the Boards of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. Seema has served as a panelist for the Yale Drama Prize, the Susan Blackburn Smith Prize, Creative Lab Hawaii, Playwrights’ Center, National Endowment for the Arts, and other grants and prizes.
Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths (Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Solo Performance; San Diego Critics’ Circle Award, Outstanding Solo Performance; Theatre Bay Area Awards, Outstanding Production, Direction, and Lead Performance), has won rave reviews in over twenty productions across North America, most recently at People’s Light, San Diego Repertory, Cultch Historic Theatre in Vancouver, Barrington Stage Company, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Arena Stage, Hang A Tale Productions, Lyric Stage Company, Pasadena Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, the Guthrie Theater, Perseverance Theatre, ACT Seattle, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Honolulu Theatre for Youth (co-produced with Daniel Dae Kim), and Epic Theatre Ensemble. Originally premiering with Los Angeles’ East West Players, the play was first commissioned by Chay Yew, former director of CTG’s Asian Theatre Workshop.
Called a “local treasure” by the Los Angeles Times, Jeanne has enjoyed guest star/recurring roles onscreen in Jennifer Phang’s internationally acclaimed indie film, Advantageous, and on the TV series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Station 19, NCIS Los Angeles, Big Hero 6, Dr. Ken, Bravo’s True Fiction, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives, Presidio Med, ER, Threat Matrix, Line of Fire, American Family, John Ridley’s I Got You, Hiroshima, and Sex and Marriage, a Justin Lin YOMYOMF YouTube webseries. Onstage, Jeanne has performed with the Vineyard Theatre, Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, South Coast Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, American Conservatory Theater, Northlight Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, Portland Center Stage, People’s Light, Sundance Theatre Institute, Syracuse Stage and the Arizona Theatre Company.
Special honors: Theatre LA Ovation Award for Outstanding Lead Actress, Chay Yew’s Red, East West Players; 2019 Trailblazer Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement, East West Players; 2016 Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community, Playwrights’ Arena; Outstanding Artist Award, Los Angeles’ Pacific American Friends of Theatre. www.jeannesakata.com, www.holdthesetruths.info
Thanks to the support made possible by the Federal Government and additional funding raised through the community, Virginia Stage Company is putting artists back to work.