Ryun Yu in DAWN’S LIGHT: THE JOURNEY OF GORDON HIRABAYASHI, East West Players, 2007. Photo by Michael Lamont.

It was the very first production.

Our world premiere of HOLD THESE TRUTHS, then titled DAWN’S LIGHT:  THE JOURNEY OF GORDON HIRABAYASHI, at East West Players.

It had been a whirlwind of a rehearsal period.  So much of it now is a happy blur.  I do remember Ryun Yu coming in with tons of research he had done on Gordon Hirabayashi, on WWII, on the 1940’s, on the Seattle area and the University of Washington.  I remember him telling me that I should take out a line I had referring to Gordon eating a corn dog as a child at the Country Fair at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, “since corn dogs weren’t invented by then”.

I remember cutting my husband’s favorite scene, because it was slowing the action down.  I remember wrestling with the beginning of the play, and Jessica saying to me, “You know this speech you have Gordon saying at the end of the play about the Quaker philosophy of life, and the light and dark squares?  What if you moved this speech to the BEGINNING of the play?”  And the lightbulb going off in my brain  “Oh my God!  That’s IT!”

I remember the first day of our tech rehearsals.  Up to this point, I was so used to being in the center of the rehearsal process as The Playwright–writing, rewriting, discussing, explaining, contributing, brainstorming, clarifying–and I wasn’t prepared for the moment when the tech crew started bringing all the cables for the lighting equipment into the theater, and I was standing in the aisle, blocking their way, and one of them said politely but firmly, “Jeanne, excuse me, you’re blocking the way–can you step aside, please?”

Suddenly I felt….useless.  That my role was played out.  That I was not NEEDED any more.  And then I realized  this was a painful but necessary part of the process–that point when the playwright’s work is done, and the work is now in the hands of the many amazing artists, onstage and offstage–cast, creative team, crew–who would put all the pieces together and give the play to the world.

I remember Ryun pacing in front of the stage about an hour before our Opening Night show, looking nervous but determined.  I remember sitting in the audience watching him perform, and watching the audience react–an audience full of theatre friends, many of whom had encouraged me time and time again to not give up in my 10-year quest to write this play, and how deliriously happy I was in those moments when I saw those friends reacting to Gordon’s incredible story the way I did when I first encountered it 10 years ago.

I could never have dreamed that first world premiere production would then launch a 15-year journey for the play–over 20 productions in cities all across the country, and even abroad.  The seed we planted with that first production has grown into a magnificent tree, each branch another chance to tell Gordon’s quintessentially and vital American story.

Thank you, Tim Dang and East West Players, for giving us this first production.  Thank you, Jessica, Ryun, Marty, John, Maiko, SooJin, Jeremy, Nate, and our amazing crew for the beginning of this incredible journey.

It was one of the best nights of my life.