Feb 19, 2016

Heart Mountain featured in Broadway show

A mural of Heart Mountain likely isn’t what you’d expect to see when attending a musical production on Broadway.

But that was one of the backdrops used in the theatrical production of “Allegiance,” attended by a group of 34 people from Northwest College in New York last month.

Based on the family history of George Takei — who played Mr. Sulu in the orignal “Star Trek” series — “Allegiance” is a story of a Japanese American family relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp during World War II. It is based on Takei’s family, though his family members actually were imprisoned in another camp.

Heart Mountain made it into the set of the Broadway production. Courtesy photo
For Ruth Pfaff, it was like seeing home away from home. Pfaff grew up on a homestead in the shadow of Heart Mountain, has written about the relocation camp and actually lived within the walls of the then-vacated camp for two and a half months while her father waited for barracks to be moved to his homestead after World War II.

“Go to New York and you see Heart Mountain? Wow. I was a bit emotional,” Pfaff said in a recent interview.

“Allegiance,” which ended its Broadway run on Sunday, is a musical based on the experiences of the Kimura family and set at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp during World War II, according to BroadwayWorld.com.

“Even younger Japanese-Americans don’t know about it, because those that experienced the internment — the pain, the suffering, the sense of loss and degradation and humiliation, didn’t want to inflict that pain on their children,” Takei told BroadwayWorld.com.

According to the playbill, “‘Allegiance’ was inspired by Takei, a moving story of love, war and heroism, set in a Japanese internment camp.”

In the musical, the Kimura family had to resettle at the Heart Mountain camp, Pfaff said.

“It’s about how they had to leave their homes with only what they could carry,” she said.

“An epic story told with great intimacy, ‘Allegiance’ explores the ties that bind us, the struggle to persevere, and the overwhelming power of forgiveness and, most especially, love,” the BroadwayWorld.com story concluded.

“It’s about how they had to leave their homes with only what they could carry,” said Pfaff, who took in the show with a group from NWC last month.

Takei was one of the actors in the show.

Pfaff said the show was great. But she enjoyed a back-stage visit the group had with with actor Telly Leung, who played Sammy Kimura, even more.

“He was a very dynamic speaker, and I enjoyed his talk,” Pfaff said.

Leung, of Chinese descent, told his story about becoming an actor, contrary to his parents’ wish that he become a doctor or lawyer.

“But that wasn’t his thing,” she said.

Members of the group told him they lived close to Heart Mountain, and he asked how close.

When they told him they lived just 15 miles from the mountain portrayed in the backdrop, he was surprised, she said. Although he knows its history, he’s never been anywhere near the mountain or the center.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to invite him to Heart Mountain?’” Pfaff said.

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