Author's notes on Gila River

LANE NISHIKAWA (author&Mac226;s notes on GILA RIVER)
"The first day I arrived in Phoenix I was taken to the Gila Reservation where the Internment Camp was located. I walked around the desert and tried to imagine the 13,000 people that lived here for three and a half years. I was on top of a hill where the massive water tank once stood replaced by a monument dedicated to those who gave their lives fighting for America during World War II, to those who died away from their homes, and to the memory of a time wasted, when the ideas for the play began to flow. The temperature was hitting about a hundred and two, it was dry, and you could see almost fifty miles in every direction. I was filled with a mixed feeling of intense heat, incredibly isolation, and a loss of one's dreams. This is how the play opens and what the Wakabayashi family must endure.

I spent about a year and a half going back and forth to research the
uniqueness of the Arizona, interview Japanese Americans who were interned
and Native Americans who worked in the camp. I interviewed Japanese
American men who were in the M.I.S. (Military Intelligence Service) and
fought in the Pacific Campaign, and looked for anything I could find on
baseball in the camps. I also interviewed those that had their fathers
taken by the FBI after Pearl Harbor. These men spent months, years in
Federal Prisons, always suspected but never charged with a crime. These
are some of the themes of the play, a small part of our history that
America doesn't know about. That's what I strive for in a new piece, to
not only entertain but to educate audiences about our experience.

I was recently very disturbed by a national poll taken that said Americans
are untrusting of Chinese Americans and Asian Americans alike, because of
incidents like the crash between the Chinese jet and our spy plane, or the
Wen Ho Lee case. Americans look at us as the enemy. That is how
Hollywood and the media portray us. This prejudice has existed since our
ancestors journeyed to these shores with the same hopes and dreams that
created our country. I just wish they would spend as much time and energy
finding positives or embracing other cultures instead of fueling fear and
hatred. That is why sixty years ago, our country took 120,000 of its
citizens and locked them away in a dark, desert closet. I hope that GILA
RIVER will shed new light and celebrate what we all have inside of us, the
human spirit."

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