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HASU-HOUSTON’s  “CALLIGRAPHY”
Remains Written in our Hearts
By Iride Aparicio


Photos by: Kevin Berne

Noriko (EMILY KORODA) meets Eamon (WILLIAM THOMAS HODGSON

PALO ALTO, CA – VELINA HASOU-HOUSTON  play, presented in its Northern California Premiere by Theatre Works  Silicon Valley on March 11,  is called “CALIGRAPHY” for a reason.  In an interview published in in “LA STAGE”  HASOU-HOUSTON explains that when one writes in “calligraphy,” (the fine art of handwriting) using Black Indian ink, it requires bold strokes and  That is how we live life, with bold strokes.  


The play has previously been described by critics as a “collision of cultures” because there are two different cultures defined in the play, the Japanese culture in Noriko (EMILY KORODA)  and the American (U.S.A culture) represented  in Afro American  MP soldier Eamon (WILLIAM THOMAS HODGSON). Yet, in their lives, and within the confines of the play, their cultures  never clashed because when they fell in love, they blended their cultures.  Because of it, CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL review of the work, will describe CALLIGRAPHY as a love play. Why?  because iwhen we analyzed it, we concluded that the force that moves all action in this play is love.

It was love who moved Eamon (HODGSON)  to ask Noriko to marry him. Love who caused Noriko (KURODA) to abandon Japan and follow him to Kansas.  It was “love” that by the name of “duty”  forced  Hiromi (MIA TAGANO) to  do things for her mother that she really did not want to do for her at that time. Filial Love that at the end reconcile the two sisters.  Love that makes  SAYURI (ELIZABETH PAN) run away leaving her mother,  and  mother’s love that gives NATSUKO, the strength  to let her daughter go,

But there are collisions in the play but they come from different sources.  The strongest one, the cultural, between he East (Japan) against the West (U.S.A.) made more intense because during the end World War II  (around l945) America considered the Japanese people  their enemies, and the Japanese  hated  the Americans  because they had defeated Japan.  So, for a Japanese girl, to marry an Afro-American soldier at that time, and move to the USA with him to live in Kansas, must have been “a tragedy”  for both their families.  While in the play we don't "hear" the reaccion of EEamon's family, We see the side of Noriko’s sister,  asking Noriko over and over again if she regretted her decision.  

The second important collision is between a generation.  Mother vs. Daughter. In one case a daughter who follows the Japanese “tradition” and care for her mother, in the other the daughter, who living in Japan,  disregard tradition and thinks for herself.  There is also a “race” collision.  The Black families , who are usually Christian, do not think like the Japanese families who may be Buddhists and follow other rituals. But perhaps the most important “collision in the play is inside Noriko’s mind: the healthy mind, against the sick mind of Alzheimer's, which is constantly changing her thoughts, from the present to the past.
 
Directed by Theatre Works, Silicon Valley Associate Artistic Director LESLIE MARTINSON, The one-act plays moves seamlessly, from beginning to end The acting is superb. The action, moving constantly from the United States to Japan,  with the two cousins talking in with each other online.



ELIZABETH PAN (Sayuri) talks with MIA TAGANO Hiromi online


The scenes change rapidly, from Kansas to Los Angeles, California, to Tokyo, to Matsuyama. From indoors to outdoors, and from the present to the past, as we see young Noriko falling in love with her American Soldier.

The play starts in Kansas in the year 2001, one month after Eamon Jameson (THOMAS) has died, and his daughter,  Hiromi, (TAGANO) now forty years old, and married,  is in Kansas to help her mother move to California with her.

Preparing for the trip, she notices that Noriko’s (KURODA) calligraphy, which is her hobby, does not look “right” and that her writing is confused.  She also notices that her mother is confusing the past with the present, and when she brings her to be checked, the doctor diagnose is Alzheimer’s

During their time in California, Hiromi decides that before her mother loses her mind completely she is going to bring her to Japan to see Natsuko (JEANNE SAKATA) her sister  and her daughter Sayuray (ELIZABETH PAN).


Natsuko JEANNE SAKATA) and Hiromi (EMILY KURODA)


The sisters'  encounter with each other is dramatic, revealing not only Natsuko hatred for the sister who married for love (not to a man chosen by her family as she did following the Japanese tradition at the time).  In This part of a well-structures play HASAU HOUSTON allows the audience to get to  know the characters better.

The acting on the play makes Noriko (KURODA) become real to the audience. In her “travels” from past to present we feel her happiness and we share her pain. As Hriomi, the dutiful daughter , TAGANO involve us in her ordeal of handling a mother with Alzheimer's, who only those who have experienced how it is to care for a relativecould fully understand. Feeling helpless when watching a love one’s mind disintegrate in front of your eyes, is something that no words could explain to any audience.

 


   MIA TAGANO, learns the Calligraphy her mother once practiced

As the bitter sister, Natsuko (SAKATA) is also convincing in her role. She let us know that while may never be able to forgive her sister for marrying a “Black” as she calls her sister’s husband, and forget her frustration and bitterness for being forced into a loveless “marriage”  She is still capable to feel love, and that love is passed into her daughter. In spite that she will remain alone, she allows her daughter to go.

And perhaps the role with the most internal drama, also played realistically,  is the role of Sayuri (PAN) the “new generation”  Japanese daughter of Natsuko,  who rejects the traditions of Japan, including her black hair which she hides under a long blond wig.  Because she is modern in her thinking, she is a “free spirit.” She does not follow the Japanese traditions.

And another good performance on that night was given by Eamon (HODGSON) who on in his short scenes, managed to portray  an absolutely charming  (MP) American soldier. kind, friendly and a wonderful dancer.

The idea for a play started for HOUSTON, after her own mother was diagnosed with “dementia”  When her mother, became her child,  it was a learning process for her, who began to see life through her mother’s eyes.

CALLIGRAPHY, is a play which demonstrates that without using four-letters words, explicit sex and violence, a play about love and family has the power to leave it written in our hearts.

CALLIGRAPHY will play at the LUCIE STERN THEATRE, 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo alto, until April 2nd. To order tickets go online toTheatreWorks.org or  call (650) 463-l960.

www.act-sf.org/