Taken from their homes and unjustly imprisoned in a desolate desert, over 100,000 Japanese Americans lives were changed forever by the crippling experience which is now little more than a footnote in American history. Many who suffered through these atrocities have been searching for an apt presentation of their experience. “Hair Like the Sun” is a remarkable new play which strives to do just that.
In 2012, playwright Charles B. French was approached to create a play about a young nurse who worked in the Japanese Internment camps in the 1940s. Once French began researching the camps and the woman, Ruth Nix, he knew that he had a relevant and touching story. In 2013, after writing for three weeks, he had his first draft. For the next three years he continued to mold and perfect the show. He traveled to California to interview members of the family and was able able to talk with (via email and phone) Ruth’s daughter Claire before she passed away.
Texas Repertory Theater Co. in Spring, Texas, bought the play in December 2015. Since that time they have been prepping for the world premiere. The cast includes seven performers who are pushing themselves to be as authentic as possible to the story. Charles B. French has been present throughout the rehearsals and greatly appreciates the depth that director Steve Fenley has brought to the relationships. “He has an idea of how he wants the scenes to play out but he also uses the impulses of the actors. He wants to do right by their story.”
The director took a moment to explain the set design and goals. “I wanted everything stripped down, the script, the story- to get to the core of the characters. I gave that to the set designer, he’s great, and he had the idea to recreate a Japanese Noh stage. It’s perfect for this show.” He also extends this stripped down reality into the movement of his performers.”Every pose is carefully constructed, like a painting by the old masters.”
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, designating certain areas of the United States West coast as military zones. This order paved the way for the unlawful imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. Hair Like the Sun is the story of one’s family’s efforts to find kindness and dignity amidst the the harsh reality of a nation at war. Based on true events this inspirational World Premiere new play tells a unique story from this often forgotten period, of a young nurse’s aide who witnessed the deplorable conditions, and struggled first-hand with the fear and indifference of a nation only to find redemption and life-changing friendship in the most unlikely of places.
The main goal of this play is that it will spread awareness of the horror of the internment camps in America’s not so distant past. French also hopes that viewers will think about some of the current global unrest and that we will not repeat our mistakes from the past. Many people who knew Ruth Nix and others who had a connection to the camps are expected to make the trip to Houston to view the show. French does not take the responsibility to be honest and respectful lightly, “This is like adapting someone’s absolute favorite book. They already know the story.”
Hair Like the Sun opens at the Texas Rep theater on March 17 and will run through April 10, 2016. You don’t want to miss this world premiere! This would be a wonderful event to share with family members with interest in war, history and those who appreciate an incredible live theater experience.