Written by Velina Hasu Houston
Presented by the Program in Theater and co-sponsored by East West Theater
Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Place: The home of Himiko Hamilton in Junction City, Kansas, and an obscure netherworld where time moves at will.
Please be advised that this production includes the following: themes and depictions of war, suicide, sexual violence, racism, and sexism. A prop gun and gunshot sound are used in the opening scene.
Please silence all electronic devices including cellular phones and watches, and refrain from text messaging for the duration of the performance.
Setsuko Banks: Eliyana Abraham ’23*
Himiko Hamilton: Megan Pan ’22*
Chizuye Juarez: Rosemary Paulson ’23*
Teruko MacKenzie: Sandra Chen ’24
Atsuko Yamamoto: Giao Vu Dinh ’24
Director: Sonoko Kawahara
Set Designer: Felix Chen ’22*
Costume Designer: Tanaka Dunbar Ngwara ’24
Lighting Designer: Gaea Lawton ’23*
Sound Designer: Elliot Lee ’23*
Dramaturg: Megan Pan ’22*
Stage Manager: Angelica Qin ’23*
Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Yang ’25
Assistant/Student Costumers: Tanaka Dunbar Ngwara ’24, Titi Sodimu ’23, Jasmyn Dobson ’24, Madeleine Lausted ’24
Stitcher: Wyatt Kim
Run Crew: Katie Hameetman ’23*
*denotes a certificate student in the Program in Theater
Immediately following the Saturday, December 11 show, join director Sonoko Kawahara and actor/dramaturg Megan Pan ’22 for a discussion about their creative process.
Note from the Director
Western theater (dare we say white men) created Miss Saigon and Madama Butterfly. These are the most popular Asian female characters in the theater world right now.
What did they see? What did they look for? What inspired them to make those works? They have set the precedent for our images of Asian women in the general culture and will continue to do so into the future.
Is it right? What else do we know about Asian women’s lives? This was a feeling that I harbored in my heart for a long time.
“Let’s create a stage together where you can express your own message, not the image of an Asian woman that was created by others before you.” That was how we spent months of rehearsals working on Tea.
It was a time of inspiration and struggles, honesty and sharing. The value of this project lies in this process. This is also the significance of creating theater. I greatly appreciated having this opportunity—meeting and working with such talented and motivated young people who will create the next generation.
— Sonoko Kawahara
Note from the Thesis Proposer
One popular conception of memory is that it operates like an archive: as we accumulate long-term memories throughout our lives, they get stored in the little shelving units of our brain, and each time we retrieve one (that is to say, remember something) it is as if we pluck it out from its corresponding file cabinet. However, the process of remembering is not actually so straightforward. According to the theory of reconstructive memory, there is not a single location in the brain where whole memories are stored in their entirety. Rather, when a memory is encoded, the experience is converted into a pulse of electrical energy that travels through a network of neurons. Each time you remember this specific memory, the same collection of neurons fires, and neurologically it is as if you are experiencing—or reconstructing—the memory all over again.
In this way, the process of creating Tea was like reconstructing a memory. What we set out to accomplish was not to dress ourselves in period-appropriate clothing and stage an “authentic” retelling of the stories of Japanese war brides, as if we were animatronics in a museum, but rather to appropriate them for the stories of ourselves, our own hopes and fears that we experience today, and in doing so offer these women a new life through a renewed memory. Just like in the recollection of memory, this reconstruction will inevitably be different from the original. But the original was never our ultimate goal.
Embodying these characters, the story of Tea is as much ours—Eliyana’s, Rosemary’s, Sandra’s, Giao’s, mine—as it is that of the historical Japanese war brides. With her insightful writing and beautiful prose, Velina Hasu Houston has provided us with the template, and the five of us (under the compassionate direction of our beloved Sonoko Kawahara) have made it into something new. “Something that will look new and think new,” as the character of Setsuko says about her daughter. Of course, none of our efforts would have been realized without the talents of our incredible design team—Felix, Tanaka, Gaea, Elliot—as well as the painstaking labors of our dynamic stage management duo, Angelica and Emily.
To my team, to the rest of the Lewis Center for the Arts faculty and staff, and to you all here with us today, I offer my humblest and most sincere thanks for partaking in this reconstruction. It means more to me than you ever could know. Lastly, I must express nothing short of the utmost gratitude to the community of Japanese war brides and their families, whose strength and perseverance have forged the path to allow us, the later generations, greater ease of passage. It is now our mission to do likewise in creating a worthwhile and kinder future for Asian America.
With all my love,
An estimated 10 million Native Americans lived in North America before the arrival of European colonizers. Many thousands lived in Lenapehoking, the vast homeland of the Lenni-Lenape, who were the first inhabitants of what is now called eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.
Princeton stands on part of the ancient homeland and traditional territory of the Lenape people. In 1756, the College of New Jersey erected Nassau Hall with no recorded consultation with the Lenni-Lenape peoples.
Treaties and forced relocation dispersed Lenape-Delaware to Ohio, Kansas, and Oklahoma. We acknowledge the violence of settler colonialism and pay respect to Lenape peoples past, present, and future and their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout the Lenape diaspora.
Current Princeton student activists and alumni are advocating for Indigenous students and studies at the University. For more information, see the websites of Natives at Princeton and Princeton Indigenous Advocacy Coalition.
Lewis Center for the Arts
Interim Chair: Michael Cadden
Executive Director: Marion Friedman Young
For a look at all the people working behind the scenes to bring you this event, View a full list of LCA staff members »