An American Dream in Santa Barbara

By Richard Mineards   |   February 28, 2023
An American Dream is a moving tale of WWII and the incarceration of Japanese American families (photo by Zach Mendez)

Man’s inhumanity to man was vividly on display with Opera Santa Barbara’s (OSB) latest one-act production An American Dream by Jack Perla and Jessica Murphy Moo at the Lobero.

The moving 70-minute work, that premiered at the Seattle Opera in 2015, is set in Puget Sound in the 1940s, intertwining the fates and tragedies of two disparate families, one of incarcerated Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and a German-Jewish woman fleeing the perils of Nazi Germany and waiting for news of the fate of her parents left behind.

A five-minute montage of Japanese Americans affected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which approved incarceration of more than 120,000 U.S. residents, two-thirds of them American citizens, started the show conducted by Eiki Isomura with moving scenic and projection design by Yuki Izumihara, and lighting design by Helena Kuukka.

The five principal players – Ben Lowe, Audrey Babcock, Nina Yoshida Nelsen, Janet Szepi Todd, and Paul Chwe MinChul An – conveyed the tensions of the age, spanning a three-year time period, well.

It was originally planned to stage just one performance, but artistic director Kostas Protopapas says OSB felt it important to add another show so that as many people as possible could experience it.

After the opera, major supporters were treated to a bash featuring Japanese cuisine in the theater’s rear courtyard.


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