Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cherry Blossoms, Mount Fuji, and The Rising Sun

Since the quake, I have felt that this disaster needed more attention than my own personal donation. With 27,000 dead or missing and 150,000 still displaced, Japan is going to need help for years to come. So my friend (the one who wears chopsticks in her hair) and I decided to organize a benefit concert using our connections and resources in the theatre world. We felt not rushing to organize one would give us some time to put together a decent size event that would have an impact, so we gave ourselves a couple of months. We entitled the concert, The Sun Always Rises which was a saying we found in one of the photos of the aftermath of the tsunami. There was a car that was upside down on a road and someone has spray painted on the side, "the sun always rises." It seemed appropriate.

One of the first things we did was to get a graphic designer to do a poster. I got a friend of mine, a really talented artist who does all of the poster design for his wife's theatre company to donate his service. He got to work and the first draft that he sent was resembling the naval flag of Japan. And this trigger some interesting responses. The overall design was really cool and slick, but the "rising sun" was reminiscent of propaganda posters from WWII. I first thought, I was being too sensitive but then my co producer friend had a much bigger reaction to it, so we asked him to go in a different direction. He was working with the title (understandably) and had no associations with that kind of feeling so had no idea this my perhaps offend the Japanese community. My friend said, "No cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji or rising sun." (This is clearly her "chop stick in hair." I just wanted to take her chopsticks our of her hair while she was saying this but that seemed petty.) He then did a beautiful design that we were all happy with that went with the title, but didn't have anything stereotyping.

In the meantime, several benefit concerts started to pop up around town, which is so great, but EVERY ONE OF THEM had a design with, you guessed it, cherry blossoms. I started forwarding every one of them to my friend as a joke. These are clearly concerts organized by Japanese, or Japanese Americans and it's as if they think that Americans won't understand the association unless we put those things in the design. But at the same time, it's a good short hand for Americans in a sense that they can know from the distance what culture this is coming from or serving. It's a cycle. I'm not certain if it's vicious cycle, but it is one. One of the concerts that we attended (because our daughter's preschool was singing in it), not only had cherry blossoms on the program, but the font was that "Chop Suey" font--the one that is often seen in Asian restaurants, where someone thought it might resemble Asian writing. UGH.

But of course, these observations are far less important than the fact that people are raising money for this cause. It is so great to see communities uniting, across the ocean, to help Japan. The artists we asked all said yes without hesitation even though they don't have any connection to Japan. The theatre venue that offered us the space is so great, they are taking care of all technical needs and ticket sales, as well as giving us the 20% of the bar proceeds to the cause. If we fill the house, we will raise $10,000. I want to fill it. It maybe a long shot, but I want to try. This is probably the most important and personal event I have produced in my career and while it's a lot of work on top of everything else going on, it feels good to put the energy into it.

If you are in Seattle, please come. If you can't come, buy tickets and send someone who can but may not be able to afford it. If you can't do either, consider sending me a check. Make it out to American Red Cross and on the memo line, write "Japan disaster fund." That is where all of our proceeds are going. Tickets are $25. The event is on May 21st at 7pm at ACT Theatre. For more information CLICK HERE. I would be most grateful for your support.

On a similar, yet separate note, we just received our cell phone that we rented to use in Tokyo (to which we are going on May 23rd). I opened the instruction book and the first image on there was the phone and on its screen was cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji. Sigh.

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