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(From left) Nina Yoshida Nelsen, mezzo-soprano; Adam Lau, bass; and Hae Ji Chang, soprano, singing in the summer 2014 workshop for “An American Dream,” Seattle Opera’s world-premiere coming to McCaw Hall August 21-22, 2015. Photo: Brandon Patoc

By P.C. Staff

Seattle Opera’s “An American Dream,” a new production from the Belonging(s) Project, will allow Japanese Americans and the community to finally watch local histories unfold onstage when it premieres on Aug. 21 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.

American Dream Lobb#3DE79A1Production for “An American Dream” was inspired by
local personal narratives, particularly the stories from the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans from the Seattle area.

“There’s a misconception that opera is a long ago and far away art form, but it’s not,” explained Gabrielle Nomura Gainor, Seattle Opera media relations manager and JACL Seattle board member. “This is a piece of opera that touches on Japanese American stories in World War II that are part of a greater American history. It’s important to all Americans.”

Gainor had an integral roll as a bridge between the Seattle Opera and community partners, including the
Japanese American Citizens League Seattle, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and the Japanese American National Museum. “The partnership made efforts in providing cultural and historical expertise, contributing to the overall production,” she said.

Continued Gainor, “I tried to facilitate a conversation right away with the Seattle Opera and our community partners, especially in adhering to the ‘Power of Words.’”

The “Power of Hands Handbook” is an educational campaign started by National JACL to understand language euphemisms and describes the preferred terminology that describes the experiences. “I was really pleased with how people were open and receptive to the ‘Power of Words’ because it’s not only important to me personally as being half but really to the community at large in understanding the impact of those words,” Gainor concluded.

Mezzo soprano Nina Nelson, who plays Mama in “An American Dream,” feels personally connected to the story, as she has “heard my 91-year-old grandmother’s own stories from camp, learning about where she came from and where she has been. I’ve learned about the struggles and joys that my grandparents experienced during the war, and I feel close to my own family as a result of working on ‘An American Dream.’”

Opening night will include preshow activities, including documentaries, presentations with three special speakers and historical exhibits. Anticipated guests include former Sec. Norman Mineta and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

“I hope we keep learning to look past how people look and learn to support our fellow human beings,” Nelson said about the play’s impact. “We can learn that just because something looks one way, it doesn’t mean it actually is that way.”

Correction: Gabrielle Nomura Gainor was misquoted as being ‘half Japanese’. Gainer is one-quarter Japanese.