San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle awarded San Francisco Playhouse and HOLD THESE TRUTHS’ star Jomar Tagatac with 2020-2021 Certificates of commendation “for especially courageous and distinguished work online during COVID-19’s devastating forced closures,” in the spirit of continuing its mission to serve local theatres of all types and sizes by recognizing excellence and outstanding achievement in the field.
“The COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the theatre community, including the cancellation of our Excellence in Theatre Awards Gala”, said Circle President Barry Willis. “Many companies turned to streaming as a way to continue practicing the art of theatre and engage their audiences. Several of our members suggested recognizing these efforts in some form. A committee was formed and tasked with facilitating this recognition.”
In June, San Francisco Playhouse returned to in-person performances with their co-production of Jeanne Sakata’s critically-acclaimed play, Hold These Truths, directed by Jeffrey Lo and starring Jomar Tagatac as Gordon Hirabayashi.
San Francisco Playhouse followed strict health and safety protocols to minimize risks to patrons, actors, and staff, and the production was also available to view on-demand through Jul. 3.
Hold These Truths is based on the incredible true story of one of America’s unsung heroes. In February 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the relocation and incarceration of tens of thousands of innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry. Among these citizens was Gordon Hirabayashi, whose defiance of the internment order catapulted him into a 50-year journey of conscience to protect the Constitution from a country that viewed him as the enemy. Hold These Truths was inspired by many hours of interviews conducted by playwright Jeanne Sakata with Mr. Hirabayashi as well as numerous primary sources from his life.
The creative team includes Christopher Fitzer (Scenic Designer, Costume Designer, Properties Designer), Heather Kenyon (Lighting Designer), Teddy Hulsker (Sound Designer, Projections Designer), Wolfgang Lancelot Wachalovsky (Video Editor), Sarah Marie Selig (Stage Manager), Ada May (Production Assistant), Janel Miley (Dialect Coach), Yuto Shinagawa (Japanese Dialect & Production Coach), and Cliff Nakamoto (Cultural Consultant).
What the critics are saying:
Jomar Tagatac appeared at San Francisco Playhouse as Mark in Art, and DJ Loki in Today is My Birthday (Theater Mu). At A.C.T. he was seen as Mr. Botard in Rhinoceros and Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol. Other credits include Playwright and others in Vietgone, Fortinbras in Hamlet, George in The Language Archive (Theatreworks), Actor 1 in King of the Yees (San Francisco Playhouse); Quang in Vietgone (Capital Stage Company); The War of the Roses, Macbeth, Everybody, As You Like It (CalShakes), The Happy Ones, and Dogeaters (Magic Theatre). Jomar is a recipient of a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Principle Actor in a Play, and TBA Award for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role. He earned an MFA from A.C.T.
Jeffrey Lo is a Filipino-American playwright and director based in the Bay Area. He is the recipient of the Leigh Weimers Emerging Artist Award, the Emerging Artist Laureate by Arts Council Silicon Valley and Theatre Bay Area Director’s TITAN Award. In addition to his work in theatre he works as an educator and advocate for issues of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and has served as a grant panelist for the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Silicon Valley Creates and Theatre Bay Area. He is the Director Community Partnerships and Casting Director at the Tony Award Winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, a graduate of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute and a proud alumnus of the UC Irvine Drama Department.
Jeanne Sakata’s celebrated solo play Hold These Truths (2013 Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Solo Performance; 2019 Theatre Bay Awards, Outstanding Production, Principal Performance and Direction) won accolades in 2019 at San Diego Rep and Barrington Stage (encore run by audience demand) after extended 2018 runs at Arena Stage and TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and sold-out shows with the Guthrie Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, ACT Seattle, and PlayMakers Rep. Hold These Truths was recently aired on TV in Philadelphia’s local PBS station, WHYY TV, in a filmed performance produced by People’s Light and Theatre., and is available internationally as a radio play, produced by L.A. Theatre Works. The play, winning rave reviews from The New Yorker, New York Times, and other AP critics, has also been produced in recent years at Perseverance Theatre, Honolulu Theatre for Youth (Daniel Dae Kim, co-producer), Terra Nova Collective, Silk Road Rising, Coachella Valley Rep, Plays and Players, and New Century Theatre. There have been more than 20 productions to date. Premiering with the East West Players in Los Angeles, and then Off-Broadway with the Epic Theatre Ensemble, the play was workshopped by the Lark Play Development Center and the New York Theatre Workshop, and is inspired by the true story of Japanese American civil rights giant Gordon Hirabayashi, to whom President Obama posthumously awarded in 2012 a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Hold These Truths, now published by Ageloff Books and available on Amazon, is also on display at the Library of Congress Playwrights Archive in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection in Washington DC, where the Jeanne Sakata Collection was established in July 2011. Jeanne’s latest work, FOR US ALL, a radio play commissioned by LA Theatre Works and inspired by the 1980’s coram nobis legal battle of Fred Korematsu, will be broadcast on radio in 2021.
Jomar Tagatac, Jeanne Sakata, Bill English and Jeffrey Lo. Photo by Lia Chang
The committee, consisting of members who had viewed a significant amount of streaming theatre, decided upon three categories of recognition: theatre companies, “full” original productions designed for streaming theatre, and solo artists and productions designed for streaming theatre.
Other theatre companies receiving Certificates of Commendation for their efforts to keep theatre alive during the pandemic include Los Altos Stage Company, The Marsh, TheatreFirst, and Theatre Rhinoceros.
Individual full productions receiving Certificates of Commendation were The Art of Sacrifice (Remote Theatre Company), Bird on a Tree Branch (Phoenix Theatre), God of Vengeance (TheatreFirst), and A Marriage (Yiddish Theatre Ensemble).
Solo theatre artists and productions recognized were John Fisher/Essential Services Project (Theatre Rhinoceros), Josh Kornbluth/Citizen Brain (Shotgun Players), Max Tachis/Fully Committed (Los Altos Stage Company), and Lady Zen/What’s in a Name (TheatreFirst).
About San Francisco Playhouse
Founded by Bill English and Susi Damilano in 2003, San Francisco Playhouse has been described by the New York Times as “a company that stages some of the most consistently high-quality work around” and deemed “ever adventurous” by the Bay Area News Group. Located in the heart of the Union Square Theater District, San Francisco Playhouse is the city’s premier Off-Broadway company, an intimate alternative to the larger more traditional Union Square theater fare. San Francisco Playhouse provides audiences the opportunity to experience professional theater with top-notch actors and world-class design in a setting where they are close to the action. The company has received multiple awards for overall productions, acting, and design, including the SF Weekly Best Theatre Award and the Bay Guardian’s Best Off-Broadway Theatre Award, as well as three consecutive Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for Best Entire Production in the Bay Area (2016-2018). KQED/NPR recently described the company: “San Francisco Playhouse is one of the few theaters in the Bay Area that has a mission that actually shows up on stage. Artistic director Bill English’s commitment to empathy as a guiding philosophical and aesthetic force is admirable and by living that mission, fascinating things happen onstage.” San Francisco Playhouse is committed to providing a creative home and inspiring environment where actors, directors, writers, designers, and theater lovers converge to create and experience dramatic works that celebrate the human spirit.
The SFBATCC is a private 501(c)(6) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and serving theatres of all types and sizes in the greater region by recognizing excellence and outstanding achievement in the field. Active since 1976, the Circle consists of reviewers covering theatre in all nine Bay Area counties across various media.
For more information, go to www.sfbatcc.org
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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