Q&A with SCOTT WATANABE (“Tatsuo Kimura”)

What inspired you to work on Allegiance?

SCOTT WATANABE: There are limited opportunities for Asian Americans in traditional theatre in the US. As a “sansei (paternal)/yonsei (maternal) Japanese American, this was an opportunity to portray my own cultural background and to work on an original musical about the Japanese American experience in the United States of America.

What were some the most rewarding aspects of working on this production?

SCOTT WATANABE: Working with many talented actors of Asian descent that were also showcasing their skills in the art form. Meeting and working with George Takei. Working with Lea Salonga (Old Globe & Broadway productions). Presenting this American history to those who don’t know or have little knowledge of the events surrounding the incarceration of approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII.

The cast performing “Gaman” in the Los Angeles premiere of Allegiance starring George Takei at the Aratani Theatre, co-produced by East West Players and Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Photo by Michael Lamont.

Given the recent political climate, Allegiance feels astutely current in its examination of race, discrimination, and patriotism. What do you hope people can take away from watching this musical?

SCOTT WATANABE: That, even though the United States of America is a nation of immigrants and believes in the ideals of individual rights, freedoms, rule of law and due process, it can still be trying to live up to the ideals of that free nation. The citizenry must be vigilant in protecting each individual and not be swayed by hysteria, xenophobia, or fear of others.

What was it like working with George Takei?

SCOTT WATANABE: A joy to work with. Passionate in his beliefs and makes you want to always be truthful in your fight for freedoms in the USA.

Allegiance is notable for being one of the few Asian American ensemble musical productions. What other stories from Asian American history would you like to see covered in future Broadway shows?

Gold Mountain – California Gold Rush
Trans-Continental Railroad
Hawaii Experience
Angel Island
Exclusion Act – Immigration and Nationality Act
Picture Bride – War Bride