David Hirata's play is now called 'A Box Without A Bottom'

Berkleyside reports that a Japanese American playwright has changed the name of his play after complaints that the name contained a racist slur.

Originally titled The Jap Box, David Hirata’s play was criticised by board members of the Berkley chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).

The play is being held at The Marsh Berkeley in Berkley, California.

In a letter from the JACL to Hirata, the organisation said the play’s title “revives a hateful racist slur that causes deep pain for us and recalls a tragic period within the living memory of our community, when 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes during WWII because of racial hatred, war hysteria and greed.

“We were put behind barbed wire and guarded by armed sentries for years.”

The letter highlights that 1,300 first- and second-generation Japanese and Japanese Americans from Berkeley were forced out of their homes in WWII.

“These Berkeleyans lost their businesses, homes, life savings, their basic human dignity,” reads the letter. “Their education was interrupted, their friendships and community relationships were halted.”

“The word “Jap” is at the epicenter of this experience because it was used not only as a racist epithet by strangers, but in newspapers and by the government itself during this horrific time,” the letter read.

Hirata apologised for the play’s title and issued an apology on the Marsh Berkley’s website.

His play has since been renamed to A Box Without a Bottom, which refers to a Japanese magic prop -Soko-nashi Bako AKA the bottomless box.

“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused,” Hirata wrote. “Though I have a real connection with the account of the Soko-nashi Bako, the raw pain of the “J word” is not my story to tell. The pain caused in the Japanese-American community by the title was real and something I regret. I felt that making a title change with my apologies was the appropriate action.”

The play tells the story of Japanese magician Namigoro Sumidagawa, who was the first Japanese citizen to leave the country in over 200 years. In 1886 Sumidagawa came to the U.S. as part of the “Imperial Japanese Troupe,” and “dazzled audiences across Victorian America with his exotic stage magic and became a media celebrity.”

Hirata stars himself in the play and portrays three magicians: himself, Sumidagawa and the American magician Wellington Tobias.

A Box Without A Bottom runs from 26 October to 1 December at The Marsh Berkley. For more information, click here.

 

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