Starting off the 2009 portion of their season, Plan-B immediately jumps into the historic with a play that touches topics that still hit hard to this day. BLOCK 8 takes a look at a darker chapter from World War II, focusing on the imprisonment of Japanese living in the
Matthew Ivan Bennett, Anita Booher, Bryan Kido, & Jerry Rapier
Gavin: Hey guys. First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Matthew: My first dramatic experience was in the “Pied Piper Of Hamlin” in the fourth grade; unless you count playing with He-Man action figures theatre. I knew I wanted to be a writer in the third grade. Having lots of books, being cloistered, growing a beard, and living in front of a typewriter (this was the '80s) seemed like a good life to me. I knew I wanted to be in theatre specifically when I was 14. The first serious acting I did was the part of Death in the play "Everyman." From there I devoured Shakespeare, began wearing all black, and replaced the white light bulbs in my room with blue bulbs. I'm now wearing color again and I use compact fluorescents.
Jerry: I've been in SLC since 1994, with Plan-B since 2000, and have recently developed an addition to Wii Tennis!
Anita: A native of the South, I’ve been acting since college.
Gavin: Tell us about the upcoming play BLOCK 8.
Jerry: BLOCK 8 is a two-person play set inside Topaz, the Japanese internment camp that was in operation sixteen miles west of Delta, Utah during World War II. Ken is a young internee grappling with whether to enlist in the military to prove his loyalty to the
Gavin: How did you learn about the camp set up here in
Matthew: I first learned about the camp through my mother at seven or eight years old. On a family camping trip at
Jerry: Fifteen years ago, I happened upon a shelf of books about the Japanese internment in the City Library. Even though I knew I was half Japanese, I had never really thought about that as a part of me until that moment. Since then I've wanted to develop a piece of theatre about the internment specific to
Anita: I knew, of course, about the internment in our history, but my knowledge of Topaz was limited to the fact that it was one of the camps and was located in
Gavin: Where did the idea come from to write a play based on it, and what was the process like writing it?
Matthew: The idea for a play evolved out of conversations with Jerry about pieces of
Gavin: For the actors, what was your first impressions of it when you got wind of the script?
Anita: I liked Matt’s script from the moment I read it. Not only does it educate us about the internment history and experience, but it does so beautifully by focusing on the tender and unlikely friendship between these two characters. I love the idea of these two people finding caring and support in each other to help them through a very, very dark time in their lives.
Gavin: What was the audition process like for you going in? And how did it feel to know you had the part?
Matthew: The audition process was cake for me. Everyone who showed up was excellent, and it was only a matter of finding the combination of
Jerry: I was nervous we wouldn't find a Japanese actor - but we had 6 to choose from! And there's such a wealth of talent among actresses in their 50s in this city we knew we'd have our pick of the best - which we did!
Anita: I was ecstatic to learn that I had been cast. The script was beautiful, and it is always such a treat to work with Jerry and Plan-B. I feel very fortunate to have this experience.
Gavin: The opening happens the day after Day of Remembrance. Tell us a little about that order, and what is Plan-B doing to reflect?
Jerry: To be honest, it's simply serendipity. We have to schedule our rentals in the Rose Wagner several years in advance. And the stars aligned (like they seem to do for us) for the timing to be perfect. We couldn't have scripted it better.
Gavin: Are you looking to draw in the comparison to more recent events in history, or did that come about as more coincidence than design?
Matthew: I could see the parallels from the beginning, but as I researched the internment and the war, the parallels became ever stronger. There was a surprise attack on
Jerry: It's inevitable in the wake of 9/11. One of Obama's first acts as President was to sign an Executive Order to close
Gavin: You already sold out some of the dates in advance. Did you expect that kind of reception or are you surprised?
Jerry: I always err on the side of caution with ticket sales - I never want to expect sellouts. But I hope! And it's wonderful to see the response - it looks like we'll be about 85% sold out by the time the show opens on February 20th. I couldn't be happier, particularly in this economic climate.
Gavin: Are there any future plans for the play after its run?
Jerry: We are touring the show to Delta and
Gavin: Is there anything else you'd like to say about BLOCK 8 and this experience so far?
Matthew: Writing and preparing the play for production has altered the way I think about politics. I was a debater in high school and I earnestly believed in the democratic process. I still believe in the democratic process, except now I see how democracy is hid behind and is used as an excuse for anti-empathetic behavior. I also see that nothing is ever resolved by the fierce collision of viewpoints. A man with imbalanced views only regains balance through risking empathy.
Jerry: Honestly, it's a dream come true.
Anita: I hope the audiences find the play as illuminating and touching as I do.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Jerry: BLOCK 8 is the centerpiece of this year's Day of Remembrance events. There is also series of free events--a photo exhibit and several film screenings--through February 24. Details can be found here. Check out our next production, DI ESPERIENZA, a dissection of the man, the myth and the self-doubt of Leonardo da Vinci. April 3-10. Click here for more info.