George Takei has built up a legion of Internet fans due to his funny and frequent memes and postings that get shared widely on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Now, he’s asking for their help to fund his Indiegogo campaign for the Broadway musical Allegiance that will begin previews at the Longacre Theatre on October 6 with an official opening November 8. The production stars Takei, in his Broadway debut, along with Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (who originated the role of Kim in Miss Saigon) and Glee’s Telly Leung.
The musical, which features a book by Marc Acito and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, is partly inspired by Takei’s own life and specifically his experience of being one of the roughly 127,000 Japanese Americans forcibly relocated to internment camps in the U.S. during World War II out of a misguided fear that they would conduct sabotage on behalf of Japan. This is despite the fact that a government report by Curtis B. Munson prior to the Pearl Harbor bombing had cleared Japanese Americans of any undue suspicion, instead noting that, “For the most part the local Japanese are loyal to the United States or, at worst, hope that by remaining quiet they can avoid concentration camps or irresponsible mobs. We do not believe that they would be at the least any more disloyal than any other racial group in the United States with whom we went to war.” (This quotation is taken from Michi Weglyn’s excellent book, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps.) Sadly, Munson’s advice was ignored and even actively suppressed during wartime.
Takei—who is still probably best known for his role as Sulu in the original Star Trek series—begins his appeal on the Indiegogo campaign page by stating:
I was only a small child in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. But I still remember the gleam of rifle bayonets as two soldiers marched up our driveway and banged on our door, ordering us out of our Los Angeles home. I remember my mother’s tears as she tried to stay strong, even as we took only what we could carry. They herded us like cattle onto trains and shipped us over a thousand miles away to the swamps of Arkansas.
Funds raised by the Indiegogo campaign will be invested in the musical on behalf of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), located in Los Angeles. Takei is a founding member of the museum, as well as Chairman Emeritus of its Board of Trustees. JANM will also be the recipient of a proportional percentage of the profits from Allegiance, to go into an endowment fund that will help support the museum’s work. This includes an ongoing exhibition of Japanese American history with a significant portion of that dedicated to the internment experience, as well as crowd-pleasing displays such as the institution’s current “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.”
While a crowdfunding campaign is certainly unusual for a Broadway production, it fits in very well with the public persona that Takei has cultivated for himself. As he admits on the Indiegogo page, Allegiance is the reason he started his forays into the world of social media. In an interview I conducted with the actor during the musical’s 2012 run at the Old Globe in San Diego, he told me “The primary motivation for it was to get the word out on this musical that we’re developing. In order to do a little educating and promotion, we interlaced it into a series of funnies every day. The photos and some of the comic things are sent in by fans, but commentary on it is mine.”
Here’s hoping all that hard work is now going to pay off. Takei has set an initial goal of raising $250,000 by May 19. The campaign began yesterday, and as of this posting on March 21 it’s already garnered over $19,000. By the time you read this, that number will undoubtedly be higher.
To visit George Takei’s Indiegogo page and make a donation, click here.
For more information on the musical Allegiance, visit www.allegiancemusical.com.