From May 20 to 23, Manzanar National Historic Site hosted seven performances of Robey Theatre Company’s production of Bronzeville. The play is set in 1942, as the U.S. Army forcibly removes Japanese Americans from West Coast communities to confine them in camps. At the same time, Blacks from the Deep South are heading west to work in defense industries. Prohibited from living in “white” neighborhoods, they move into Little Tokyo, renaming the area Bronzeville. Three years later, Bronzeville begins its evolution back to Little Tokyo as Japanese Americans return and Blacks are forced to move elsewhere.
The play, co-written by Japanese American and African American playwrights, explores the conflicting reactions of members of a Black family when they discover a Japanese American hiding in "their" attic to avoid being sent to Manzanar. Each person wants to “do the right thing” but they have differing ideas of what that means.
Over the course of several days, much of the Manzanar Interpretive Center was transformed into a large stage set by Robey’s technical crew. The cast included eight professional actors from around the country. In all, more than 500 people attended the play, including nearly 250 students at two daytime school performances. Inyo Council for the Arts and the Inyo County Office of Education partnered with Manzanar and the Robey Theatre Company. The local reception was very positive. Manzanar hopes to continue offering special programs.