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The musical "Allegiance," which recounts a family's struggle to endure the Japanese-American internment in the 1940s, opens on Broadway on Nov. 8. A rare foray onto the New York stage, the show was inspired by one of its stars, George Takei, who discusses the importance of telling the story. NewsHour's Mori Rothman reports.
George Takei believes a musical is the perfect format to retell the history of the Japanese-American internment during World War Two.
Music has the power to hit people right here in the heart, emotionally, as well as intellectually.
In early 1942 the U-S ordered 110-thousand Japanese-Americans living on the west coast to internment camps. Five year old Takei and his family were sent to camps in Arkansas and Utah for nearly four years. The musical "Allegiance" is loosely based on their experience.
Takei's family had lived in Los Angeles. His father, who emigrated as a child ran a dry cleaner. His mother raised the three kids.
Takei's parents couldn't understand why their country made them live behind barbed wire fences.
I couldn't reconcile what I read in civics books and history books about the shining ideals of our democracy with what I knew to be my childhood imprisonment. And to be suspected of being the enemy when we were Americans.
In Allegiance, Takei plays the grandfather of the main character, Sammy, who struggles to reconcile his pride in being American with his family's suffering in the camp…where they lived in cold barracks without plumbing or privacy.
They're treating us like animals!
It means to carry on.
Hold head high.
The musical focuses on Sammy and his sister, Kei- siblings driven apart after internment by conflicting ideas about loyalty and patriotism.
We wanted to humanize the internment experience. We wanted to make them people who were resilient, part of resilience is the ability to find joy even under those harsh circumstances and love.
For Takei, reliving the painful events of 70 years ago is a chance to make amends with his own family.
In one heated discussion with my father, I said 'Daddy, you led us like sheep[s] to slaughter into the internment camps,' and then he looked at me and said, 'Well, maybe you're right,' and he got up, went into his bedroom and closed the door. And I felt terrible. And I never apologized. I'm apologizing to my dad every night.
The cast of "Allegiance" is the first to be led by Asian actors on Broadway since the revival of the musical "Flower Drum Song" thirteen years ago. But Takei is used to breaking barriers: when "Star Trek" began in 1966, he was one of the first Asians to star on American TV.
For years, Takei spoke publicly about his internment but the idea for "Allegiance" did not occur until he discussed it with composer Jay Kuo in 2008.
You yourself have been very outspoken, going around the country to speak about the internment, why is that?
People who I consider well informed people are shocked when I tell them about my childhood. It's a vital part of American history. And Americans don't know it. And we have to know our history to learn from it.
And Takei says the internment needs to be remembered so it is never repeated.
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