Colorado’s first Asian American theater company, Theatre Esprit Asia (TEA), has launched its debut season with a pair of one-person plays in repertory, and I was fortunate to see one of them, “Dust Storm,” last week starring Dale Li. If you haven’t seen this or the other play, “Spirit and Sworded Treks” starring Maria Cheng, hurry — they run tonight through Sunday, and then close after next weekend.
“Dust Storm” is a monologue about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. It’s loosely constructed on a real incident, an attack on Chiura Obata, a celebrated artist, in Topaz, an internment camp in Utah.
The story is told from the perspective of Seiji, an angry teenager who’s imprisoned at Topaz (with his family, but he abandons them to hang with a bunch of tough teens). Like Obata, Seiji was rounded up in Berkeley, California after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the camps to be built. Anyone of Japanese descent in the Bay Area, including U.S.-born citizens like Seiji, were told they could pack whatever they could carry, and were first sent to a temporary holding center before being transferred to Topaz.