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-02-0032

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: Well, in fact, I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your acting, because you told about some of the very early work that you did with the Nisei theater groups.

HK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

AI: But then, a little after that, in the, in the '70s, the new Asian American theaters started forming, as you mentioned. And I was wondering if you could tell a little bit about your early involvement there, and beginning to act with that group?

HK: Yes, I was in Lonny Kaneko's play, and I think that was the first production I did at Asian American theater. Frank Chin directed it, and the fellow who was playing the leading part got cold feet. And as we moved towards production, I mean, opening, he really got so nervous that he decided he would drop out. And nobody would be able to take the part at that point, so Frank Chin took over, and he played it. [Laughs] It was very odd, you know, Frank Chin is Frank Chin, and nobody else. I mean, he playing Frank Chin. It became Frank Chin. But that was the part that I played, yeah, and then I had this...

AI: Oh, excuse me, Lonny Kaneko's play was Lady is Dying?

HK: Lady is Dying. And he co-wrote it with someone, yeah. And that was fairly successful, not, not that successful. But that was when my nephew committed suicide. Yeah. And so... yeah, and I had to play that night, and somebody noticed that I, I wasn't myself. They could tell, I guess. And that was the tragic part of that. But I was in Hito Hata, which was a movie, first Asian feature, Asian American feature. And had experience working with Mako, who was very unkind at first. [Laughs] Thought I was a rank amateur, and oh, it was something else to win him over. And I, I guess just by performing, he, he came to my side. But now we are good, good friends. And I had a part at the Eureka Theater production of The Wash, with Nobu McCarthy, and Mako was to play the part that I did, but he had a film, film role, so he couldn't make it. You know, these movie actors, when they get a part, they drop everything else. So I was the stand-, what do you call that?

AI: Understudy?

HK: Understudy.

AI: For which role?

HK: For, for Mako's role. And then I was given the part because he couldn't do it, and so I was working with Nobu McCarthy. And that was quite an experience, yeah. [Laughs]

AI: It sounds like you had a good time.

HK: Oh, yes. She's wonderful. She was great. You know, one time we were rehearsing our scenes, and he was, she was married to Bill, it's her second husband, and he was very devoted to her, and he would call, call her apartment and chit-chat with her. And I would be there, we would be rehearsing, and she would not indicate that I was there. [Laughs] And, of course, I wouldn't make a noise. That was funny, but poor Bill, he died of cancer, and then he died a few years later, I guess.

AI: Well, that play, The Wash, was also, made a certain mark of its own, I thought, because I, as I recall, it's one of the first plays that really had quite an in-depth look at a relationship, a Japanese American relationship, and how it changed and, and also because it addressed negative experiences in family life.

HK: Yes.

AI: And to have it in a play that was produced in public, for goodness sake, I thought it caused quite a ripple. But how did you experience it?

HK: Oh, yes, it was quite a, an experience playing in it. Yeah, and it was wonderful acting with Nobu McCarthy. She would, every night, say, "Give it to me." [Laughs] Yeah, it was funny. You know, I had to sing a lullaby, and I had to learn this lullaby. And that was so hard for me, I don't sing. I don't, I can't carry a tune, but you have to fake it. [Laughs] And yeah, that's what we did. I didn't hear any, any complaints, but, yes.

AI: So, would you say that was one of your more memorable roles?

HK: Yes.

AI: Or I should ask you, which are your most memorable roles?

HK: That, probably, I thought. What else have I done that was... I did some, some others, but... I did one about samurai, Zatoichi, the blind samurai. I did that, and I used my kendo background in that. I did work on... Henry, Henry Hwang? David Henry Hwang. He had a play about, short play about a woman and man, I forgot what it's called. I was in it, but anyway, the production wasn't too good. Henry or David...

AI: The House of Sleeping Beauties?

HK: Yes, that was it, yes.

AI: And you were playing opposite of Amy Hill?

HK: Yes, yes. Oh, you have that? Ah, yes, Amy Hill, before she became a movie, movie star. Well, we played together, and actually, we weren't too good. I mean, I wasn't very good. We had a bad, poor director, and I don't know. It was not a good show, yeah. But I was in Zatoichi, and I was in, oh, that song, I mean, play by Sakamoto, Ed Sakamoto, about Shadow or something. Voices in the Shadow, yeah. That was fairly good, but I remember the coldness in theater. That was very cold. It was one of the coldest winters in San Francisco. And I did Emiko Omori's Hot Summer Winds, it's a film. And that was fun, although I should tell Chiz -- [laughs] -- actually, I should have played the young, romantic part, who brought the prize to the lady, he was a newspaper man, and oh, I loved that part, and I wanted to play it, and I read for it, and they chose this young guy. And actually worked well in the film, because he was young, and it was a romantic relationship, but I could have been the very good newspaper man bringing the gift. [Laughs]

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.