Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiroshi Kashiwagi Interview
Narrator: Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-khiroshi-02-0027

<Begin Segment 27>

HK: And then after that I wrote another play that we did at UC Berkeley, as Nisei, Nikkei students did it, and we performed it in their studio theater.

AI: And what was the nature of that play?

HK: Oh, that was about camp, but more about the moral breakdown of the Japanese in camp, where they thought nothing of stealing pork, bringing back pork, if they worked in the hog farm, or when the coals were delivered, you'd go out and you get the best coals for yourself, and not sharing, and all these underhanded things that happened. And bribery, you bribe everyone to, to get a service. And it was called Laughter and False Teeth, and it's based on my mother's travail about her teeth, dentists and the teeth, and how she tries to get a false plate made, and then people bribe the dentist, so that he would treat them. And, and my mother, or the mother character doesn't realize what's needed, so she doesn't have her false plate. And things like that, it was a comedy, but very serious. [Laughs]

AI: I've read the, I've read the play, and I, although I knew it was a comedy, I haven't seen it performed. And so although I knew it was a comedy by the way you wrote it, I found it extremely depressing.

HK: Yeah, yeah, because of the, yeah, all the...

AI: And I was wondering about the character of the Boiler Man, because at the end, the Boiler Man dies.

HK: Yes.

AI: And my, my reading of it was that the Boiler Man really stood for the decency of the --

HK: Exactly.

AI: -- of the Nikkei people in camp.

HK: Yes, yes. But all this... influence by the camp situation, decency just is out the window. And so the Boiler Man has to go. But the little boy comes and takes over, so that there is some, some positive note at the end, yeah.

AI: Right. Some small bit of hope.

HK: Yeah, yeah. Oh, you read it in The Big Aiiieeeee!?

AI: Yes.

HK: Ah, yes. Uh-huh.

AI: I read it, I think, when the book first came out, and then I read it more recently.

HK: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, it still works a bit.

AI: What kind of, tell me about the audience reaction when you were first producing that in Berkeley?

HK: Yeah, it was an experimental play. It was a series of plays by people in the playwriting class, so that it was taken as an experiment, and a work-in-progress. And they really liked our play; people liked it because it was different and had Asians in it playing Asian parts, and it wasn't as political as it turned to be. It became more and more political as I rewrote it through time. And when I wrote it, it was in the '50s, '54, '53, so that it wasn't, there was no move-, student movement or anything. But in the '60s when I revised it and we performed it, even '70s, I rewrote it, and it became more and more political, yeah. Uh-huh. So that the one in the book is the later version, yes. But people were a little confused, because it's not so much a comedy after all. [Laughs] Yeah, Frank Chin, I think, really understood the play, when he explains it. I think he did a good job for the play. Yeah.

AI: The way he summarizes it at the beginning of the book.

HK: Yeah.

AI: I mean, at the, in the book.

HK: Explicates, yeah. So it makes it seem like a good play. [Laughs] Yeah.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.