It would be an understatement to say I was moved by the broadcast of Allegiance today. I was, like many other people in the theatre, softly sobbing at many parts of the performance.
The show today was, as is every performance of Allegiance, a tribute to the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were wrongfully detained 75 years ago today in internment camps during WWII.
I learned about internment camps during WWII, but as a side-note. There's a song near the end of the musical that sums it up so well, and illustrates how I learned about these, as a "whoops, we thought you were the enemy but we were wrong." No acknowledgement of wrong-doing. No apologies.
It was easy to connect and empathize with so many of the characters, but the one that drew me in the most, was that of Greg Watanabe's Mike Masoaka. His role is curious in both being immensely influential at the time, and only a side-character in the show. He has a book that he co-published (presumably about himself) in 1987, They Call Me Moses Masoaka: An American Saga. But, I didn't see another biography of him on Amazon. I did find his obituary in the New York Times from 1991, which is surprisingly brief: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/06/29/obituaries/mike-masaoka-75-war-veteran-who-aided-japanese-americans.html.
Perhaps it's primarily because of Watanabe's performance, or the way the character was written, but I'm so curious about how he really felt about the reports he gave on the news, his stance on the camps, and the 442nd Regimental combat team. For whatever his motivations, after the war, it seems he was instrumental in the passing of, among other things, an act (that took until 1998) to compensate the 60,000 surviving Americans who were interned.
Most of the people portrayed in Allegiance were invented for the musical. The portrayal of the pain, humiliation, and anxiety that we put our fellow human beings through, and their joy and resilience is palpable throughout the show.
I don't need to see someone's hurt to know I should care for them or that they deserve respect. That said, historical dramas, to me, are a constant reminder of the history I've neglected, and a renewed motivation to be proactive to not repeat our shameful past.