Daniel Dae Kim brings "Hold These Truths" to Honolulu

New York actor Joel de la Fuente performs as Gordon Hirabayashi in a one-man show.

Photo: Courtesy Honolulu Theatre for Youth

You might know Daniel Dae Kim as a Hawaii Five-O actor, but this month he is taking on the role of producer, bringing an off-Broadway play from New York to Honolulu.

The play is entitled “Hold These Truths,” inspired by the true story of Japanese American Gordon Hirabayashi who fought the U.S. government’s order to send all Japanese people on the West Coast to internment camps. This month marks the 70th anniversary of Japanese internment in World War II.

Kim was inspired to bring the production to Hawaii after watching his close friend Joel de la Fuente perform in the show and says he was deeply moved.

“To watch a story like this about the struggles that Asian Americans have had to face is one that most people in Hawaii will understand and appreciate,” Kim says.

While many might not know Hirabayashi by name, his story is a familiar one. The Seattle native became the face of opposition to the U.S. government’s internment orders of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Hirabayashi was a University of Washington student when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to send all Americans of Japanese ancestry to internment camps during World War II. An American-born son of Japanese immigrants, Hirabayashi was imprisoned after refusing orders to relocate on constitutional grounds. Decades later, his conviction would be overturned in a court battle against the U.S. government. 

Hirabayashi died in January 2012, at the age of 93. A few months later, President Barack Obama honored him posthumously with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

De la Fuente plays Hirabayashi and switches into other characters in Jeanne Sakata’s 90-minute one-man play.  De la Fuente admits he never heard of Hirabayashi until director Lisa Rothe approached him in 2009 about the role.

“He's a remarkable man with an extraordinary story, so I was stunned I knew nothing about him,” de la Fuente says in an email. “As time passed, I began to realize that very few people around me knew of Gordon either. I hope Jeanne's play begins to change that.” 

The show will be dedicated to the memory of Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was Kim’s role model growing up. 

“He was an example of what was achievable as an Asian American and as far I was concerned no one was making a greater contribution than him,” Kim says.

The show will be playing for six performances at Honolulu Theatre for Youth (don’t worry, the show is intended for adults). Kim chose the venue at least partially because of existing personal connections with the theater. The Feb. 24 show will feature a panel discussion with Japanese internment historians. 

7:30 p.m. Feb. 21; 8 p.m. Feb. 22-23; 3 p.m. Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28; 8 p.m. March 2; $20 adult, $15 students and seniors (60+), $30 limited premium seating available; Cathedral of  St. Andrew Tenney Theatre, 229 Queen Emma Square, 839-9885, htyweb.org

(Story updated 2/21/13)