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Plan-B Theatre Company Brings History to Life in Matthew Bennett’s “Block 8”

February 24, 2009


February 19th marked the annual Day of Remembrance to pay respects to Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during WWII.  And February 20th marked the world premier of Block 8 by Matthew Ivan Bennett at the Rose Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Block 8 takes place during WWII at the internment camp Topaz, located in Central Utah.  Topaz was home to more than 8,000 people including, in Block 8, the unlikely pair, Ken (Bryan Kido), a young Japanese American man who was wrested from college and sent into Topaz, and Ada (Anita Booher), a Utah wife and mother who tries to earn a little extra money, while her son is off to war, as Topaz’s school librarian.  Ken sees Ada as if she were the U.S. government who put him and his family there.  And Ada merely sees Ken as a “Jap.”

Ken and Ada have a chance meeting at the school library where their angst for each other is rigid at best-Ken’s

courtesy of Plan-B

courtesy of Plan-B

resentment toward Ada because he was forced to come to Topaz even though he had nothing whatsoever to do with the horrific bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Ada’s resentment because Ken’s ancestors are Japanese, you know, the ones who viciously bombed Pearl Harbor and also the same “Japs” that Ada’s son is fighting.  Despite their subtle animosity toward each other, these two begin to confide in one another despite their cordial resentment for the other.

What sometimes happens to people who are harboring hate and prejudice is that they open their mind as a result of being around, chatting, discussing, debating, arguing, and fighting with someone of an opposed view.  Ken and Ada, over the hard, dusty months the Central Utah desert, learned to value the other as a human being-an individual-and not as a stereotype.  They began to understand.  But with understanding

courtesy of Plan-B

courtesy of Plan-B

comes another choice: ‘Do I follow my heart according to the understanding that I have?  Or do I continue to abide the status quo?’  Heavy.  In the central Utah desert, Ken and Ada have decisions to make and actions to take.

Block 8 is a stirring and well written play that explores the power and growth that can come as we aim to understand rather than react with a fight or flight mentality when hurt or scared.  Anita Booher and Bryan Kido both do well to display their displeasure and naivety in block capitals while subtly and incrementally breaking down walls opening up to their flowering friendship.  A clever, sharp, and tender dialogue gave these actors a lot of substance to work with.  Block 8 is two strangers forced together during a shady and shameful time in United States’ and Utah history.  Knowing that the types of issues the fictional characters Ken and Ada were dealing with were real adds to the poignancy and scariness of Executive Order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese citizens.

Playwright-Matthew Ivan Bennett

Sound-Cheryl Ann Cluff

Stage Manager-Jennifer Freed

Costumes-Phillip R. Lowe

Lighting-Jesse Portillo

Director-Jerry Rapier

Set-Randy Rasmussen

Props-Cory Thorell

Plan-B Theatre Company

February 20-March 8.

Studio Theatre/Rose Wagner, 138 W. 300 S. Salt Lake City, Utah

2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Hales permalink
    February 26, 2009 5:56 PM

    How can I acquire a copy of the script for “Block 8”? Thanks, David Hales, Librarian, Westminster College. SLC.


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