For Japan

21 Mar

Since the natural disasters, and while still in the midst of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, I have chosen to do what most of us do when distant tragedy strikes: I continue with my regular daily routine. I switch off the live news coverage. I shop for groceries. I write my thesis. I laugh. I breathe. Despite these signs of normalcy, I feel guilty at times, helpless at others, and in certain moments, I feel nothing at all. Japan haunts my mind, aches my heart, and makes me feel like I can and/or should do something.

So, I ask: What is there for me to do?

Some of us are able to donate money (see below for recommendations). Some of us are able to donate time. Some of us are skilled medical professionals or engineers or emergency workers and can offer immediate, practical aid. Still, there must be something that each one of us – regardless of age, economic, racial, ethnic, religious, or geographical status – can/should do when this kind of tragedy strikes.

In a recent statement on Japan’s traumatic events, Thich Nhat Hanh said: “The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body… An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.”

Thinking on these words, I considered that perhaps the answer is to simply allow ourselves to be affected. We can allow ourselves to mourn and to pray or meditate or paint or write or sing or do whatever it is that feels like a sacred offering to those who have passed as well as to those who continue to suffer. We can allow these natural forces to remind us of both our humanity and our interconnectedness.

And it is this very kind of massive reminder of global connectivity that we seem yet to require/need again and again. We are ALL at the mercy of an Earth who is bucking abusive populations of humans across the globe? We are all in this together (especially when it comes to manmade consequences like nuclear meltdowns).

For a most obvious example of our global interconnectivity, take a look at this visual depiction of the recent tsunami’s rippling effect.

Mother Nature emphasizes the power of the rippling effect. She reminds us of the infinite possibilities for changing Earth as we know it, how a shift in the ocean can submerge entire communities and annihilate even the most prepared of nuclear plants. Both frightening and inspiring is the natural disasters’ lesson to humankind: “Each time a man [or woman] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” (Robert. F. Kennedy). A shift in the smallest portion of humanity could lead to a worldwide revolution. We still have the power to, at the very least, treat each other with compassion and humility. We might not be able to reverse our environmental impact, but we can (as my dear friend Anne Watanabe put its), at the very least, treat each other well during the little time we have left here.

So, is that what we can/should do in response to unprecedented tragedies such as this? Might we allow ourselves to be personally moved by what happens “somewhere else?” Might we transform that very empathy into action? Is now the time to quake with unconditional love and support for our brothers and sisters in Japan? After that, is it then the time to ask humankind to do better by our earth, by our children, and by each one of as fellow beings? Perhaps…

For now, I’ll allow myself to be affected by the thousands who are dying and the thousands more who were swept out to sea, and I’ll meditate on what it means to “live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.” Maybe I’m simply rippling in response to a shift in others.


For those who do have something monetary to give, we have received two recommendations from National JACL regarding donations for Japan Earthquake relief.  The first was to the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, JCCCNC, and the second was to Direct Relief International. JCCCNC has recently issued an update on their activities:

“On March 11 we established the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and more than $130,000 of your donations have already been sent to the most affected areas to provide water, food, blankets and shelter supplies.  One hundred percent of the donations are going directly to citizen relief efforts through the National YMCAs of Japan and other non-governmental organizations with which we have relationships since the Kobe earthquake of 1995.  No fees are taken by JCCCNC or the organizations in Japan; funds go to the people who need it most but are often forgotten.

For JCCCNC tax deductible donations online, visit:

For tax deductible donations by mail, make checks payable to “Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” and send to:


1840 Sutter St.

San Francisco, CA  941115

To make a tax deductible donation through Direct Relief International visit: and click “Donate” and select “Japan Relief and Recovery Fund.”


Portrait of a Modern Day Playwriting Workshop

25 Feb

Reading a scene. Smith College, 2011.


17 Feb

Opening next Thursday! My Smith College directing debut!

Smith College Department of Theatre presents


Written by Darren Harned (Smith MFA ’11)

Directed by Kendra Arimoto

Feb 24-26; March 2-5 @8pm

Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre



12 Feb

Design by Jessica Sabogal


Smith College Department of Theatre presents


Written by Darren Harned (Smith MFA ’11)

Directed by Kendra Arimoto

Feb 24-26; March 2-5 @8pm

Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre


New Play Premiere Reading – October 14, 2010

15 Sep

Click here to see the Official Press Release:

Shikataganai-Smith College Reading – Press Release


Bachan at Topaz during WWII.

Not until 1967 could Japanese Americans interracially marry. (Kendra pictured center.)

SCARLET P opens this Thursday!

23 Feb

For info and tix:

Just Getting Started…

21 Feb

Whose Hollywood?

I was horrified, but not surprised, to see an all-white “new Hollywood” on the March cover of Vanity Fair. The new Hollywood doesn’t look so different from the old. (Including the heteronormative costume design.)

To all my artistas of color, do not stop writing, performing, and supporting work by/for womyn of color. Don’t give up.

Support each other. Start your own production companies. Write roles for your sisters. Get educated. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

24 Hour Theatre Festival

28 Jan

Below is an article written by Eric Weld about last week’s 24 Hour Theatre Festival. I participated as a playwright.  We had to use at least one of three props (animal carrier, collapsible fishing rod, BBQ tools, deck of cards) and incorporate the line “I’m sure you won’t mind if Mittens joins us.”   A woman director and two actresses took on my 10 minute script. I chose to write a piece titled “The Sweet Life” inspired by Perry v. Schwarzeneggar (specifically Helen Zia’s testimony). It was an amazing event with a healthy turnout. Thanks to the generous hearts of the artists who worked on my piece!  I will never tire of the blessing that is seeing my words performed.

5 Writers and 5 Directors Plus 20 Actors and 24 Hours Equals 1 Fun Play Festival

Playwrights arrive: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22. Mission: write a 10-page play by 8 a.m. the next morning.

Directors and actors arrive: 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. Mission: produce completed 10-page play in 11 hours.

Audience arrives: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center. Mission: laugh, cry, snicker, scoff—enjoy five 10-minute plays produced in 24 hours.

Jeffrey Stingerstein

A 24-hour play festival coordinated by Jeffrey Stingerstein, a Smith graduate student in playwriting, for the noncredit Interterm program, provides an encapsulated snapshot of the creative, convoluted process of producing a play, from the germ of an idea to the fruition of performance.

Five playwrights, chosen by Stingerstein to participate, will agree on a set of parameters to incorporate into each of their creations, such as the number of actors, certain traits among their characters, set devices, and a single line to include in the script.

Then they will disperse to concoct their 10-page (approximately 10-minute duration) plays during an overnight writing marathon.

“It’ll be hectic for the playwrights,” said Stingerstein, who coordinated several play festivals at the State University of New York, Purchase, where he received his undergraduate degree, though no 24-hour events. “These playwrights will learn about time pressure, which is something they’ll experience in their careers. They’ll have to boil down the elements of a play to the essentials. It’ll be a real pressure-cooker.”

The next morning, the presumably exhausted playwrights will hand their creations over to directors, who will guide their respective troupes of thespians in bringing the work to life in an equally crunched timeframe.

“It’ll be an atmosphere of fun, mostly,” predicted Stingerstein. “Everybody’s here to learn.”

By the time the audience fills the free seats in Hallie Flanagan Theatre in anticipation of witnessing the 24-hour results, the directors and actors, while worked over, will be so familiar with their plays, they will be well-ready to perform, if only, perhaps, to complete the exercise.

“I think these pieces will come out fairly polished,” said Stingerstein, “and the audience, at the end of the day, will accept the terms of what the plays are.”

That is, five single-act plays, written, rehearsed and performed in 24 hours—what would take several months of work in normal circumstances. On the other hand, the typical, long-term play-production format cannot produce the excitement and energy that comes with a 24-hour creative sprint.

Stingerstein’s festival is based on similar 24-hour festivals, such as the spring Play-in-a-Day theater festival at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Northampton’s annual 24-hour Theatre Project.

Stingerstein will oversee the process during his 24-hour festival, assisting writers and directors as needed. “This will be a new experience for me,” he said. “I expect to have a fun evening, and that everyone will come away with a decent experience.”


20 Dec

Finishing up finals and looking forward to spending the holidays with family and friends in Cali.

Upon return, writing in preparation for my WORD! mentorship/workshop with Marcus Gardley.  Also looking forward to seeing  SCARLET P in a full production at Smith College, directed by Jeffrey Stingerstein and featuring the debut of actress Tara Amber in the role of Mica.

Interview With Smith College’s Sophian

25 Oct

Readings give no-frills look at new plays

Kaitlyn Willcoxon

Issue date: 10/22/09 Section: Arts

In Elizabethan England, people would go to “hear,” not “see,” a play because the sets and costumes were so modest that the focus was on the words alone. The New Play Reading Series maintained some of this character as new plays were read to an audience without any of the full-scale production of a fully produced play.

The series, which took place on Tuesday of this week, featured actors reading one-act plays written by the four students in the Smith College Theater Department MFA playwriting program: Kendra Arimoto, Roger Gordon, Jeff Stingerstein and Darren Harned.

These play readings were like minimalist premieres. They featured never-before-performed plays without any of the production elements, such as lighting and sound, or any of the blocking – theater jargon for the actors’ onstage movements.

But the austerity still required organization, casting and work. For the reading, the playwrights cast the actors, held rehearsals and served as directors. Often, Gordon said, the actors would ask questions of the playwright during rehearsals, which then helped the playwright clarify and refine his or her work.

“Sometimes you’ll be reworking a play right up until the reading,” he said.

The plays read ranged from more traditional drama to complete ridiculousness.

Gordon’s two-person play centers on the relationship between a father and a daughter. He described his play as a “short, little heartwarming story about loss and trying to hold on as long as you can.” The play explores the aftermath of the father’s accidental death in a car accident caused by his daughter.

Originally, Gordon wanted to cast two Smith undergraduates, one in the role of the father and one in the role of daughter, but, as he said, “the dynamic wasn’t right.”

At first, Gordon had intended to present another play in the series, but for him, “this one was fresher [and] more close to home.”

Arimoto’s play shows the relationship between a female Iraq war veteran and a widower who both, according to Arimoto, “share the death of a loved one – her sister and his wife.” Throughout the play, the two move from attempting to find solace in each other to “tiptoeing around the past.”

Beyond the traditional theme of loss, Arimoto’s play also focuses on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, gender relations, sexual assault in the military and the many difficulties that women face in the military.

Stingerstein’s play mimics what he sees as the “absurd things going on in the world.” The play is “completely unrealistic” and involves a person trapped on a window ledge on the 43rd floor of a building. Meanwhile, another person attempts to get to the person on the window ledge while navigating a labyrinthine onslaught of obstacles that include men demanding one million dollars and literally “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

This reading may be the play’s only opportunity to see the lights of the stage, as Stingerstein does not plan to produce the play.

Readings create an organic collaboration between the playwright and the audience. Arimoto believes readings allow the playwright to “find out if [his or her] beats actually translate” and to gauge audience reaction. “If everyone starts going for cough drops, checking cell phones or shifting in their chairs, then I know I’m not moving the action along.”

By going to readings, audiences can become pioneers of new art. According to Gordon, it’s “hard in theater for new plays to [be] produced and it’s a chance to be exposed to plays that otherwise would not be.”


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