Play Reflects Playwright's Family Background
department’s New Play Reading Series will present the premiere
reading of the award-winning Shikataganai
(It Can’t Be Helped),
a full-length play by young Hapa Yonsei playwright (MFA ’11), on Thursday, October 14, at 7:30 p.m.
in Earle Recital Hall, Sage Hall. The event is free.
not only in reference to a controversial Japanese phrase,
the reading also marks a significant milestone in Arimoto’s
lifelong effort to put her family’s history of incarceration
Arimoto began writing Shikataganai
(It Can’t Be
Helped) at age 8. Back then, the story wasn’t in the form
of a play, but rather a set of entries scribbled in an amethyst-colored
journal after a disturbing day of grade-school U.S. history.
“The summer before 4th grade, I’d been drawn to my father’s copy of Michi Nishiura
Weglyn’s ground-breaking Years of Infamy,” Arimoto recalls, “because of a black-and-white
photograph of little girls wearing tags around their necks next to a map of ‘camps’ throughout
California. I knew 4th grade was the year for learning about California missions
and I somehow thought the two connected. I’ll never forget the moment my teacher
angrily explained that ‘it’ wasn’t part of the subject matter. Confused and disappointed,
I went home and questioned my parents, who told me to talk with Bachan.”
Suddenly, months before becoming
the first in her family to attend college, Arimoto received
tragic news: her bachan had unexpectedly passed away. With
passing, Arimoto lost the ability to write on the subject of internment. Today,
her 83-year-old grandfather remains the last living connection to an often buried
and forgotten past.
Not until her first year in
Smith’s MFA program in playwriting
was Arimoto able to confront what many still feel “can’t be helped.” With Shikataganai
(It Can’t Be Helped), Arimoto injects American history with the intensity and
passion of live theater to give an unexpected artistic twist on a historical
A fierce writer, actor and activist,
Arimoto combines a lifetime of training with generations
of talk-story to put Japanese Americans on the national stage
with the support of Smith and the mentorship of professors
Len Berkman and Andrea Hairston.
(It Can't Be Helped) received the James Baldwin Fund Prize for Multicultural
Playwriting 2010 from the Five College Multicultural Theatre
Committee and an excerpted reading at the WORD! Festival.