War Stories

March 25th, 2007

PhilipDespite the fact that Philip Kan Gotanda cleverly plied me with wine, I nonetheless have a clear memory of our conversation -- which you can catch on Monday night's episode (at 7:30). And from what I can recall, the Berkeley-based playwright and filmmaker was a marvelous guest -- filling me in on his wide-ranging, passionate, questing body of work.

Gotanda's latest play, After the War, which will have its world premiere at A.C.T. on Wednesday, is arguably his most ambitious: it explores the cultural interactions -- often tense, though sometimes tender -- in the Fillmore District in the period following World War II. As Japanese-Americans returned from the internment camps to which they'd been forced by a shameful government edict, they found many of their former Japantown residences now occupied by (among others) African-Americans who'd come up to work in the city during the war. Gotanda's protagonist, a Japanese-American jazz musician, must try to navigate the roiling cultural waters of his place and time. Having read the play but not yet seen it, I can't wait to get to A.C.T. and check out how director Carey Perloff has brought this sprawling tale to life on stage.

One thing I have seen is Life Tastes Good, the delightfully quirky feature film that Gotanda wrote and directed (it'll soon be out on DVD). I'd also love to visit Mashiko, the Japanese town where he once studied pottery -- but I'm pretty sure such a trip would be outside our show's research budget. Well, at least BART can get me as far as A.C.T. ...

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