The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559

Adapted by Naomi Iizuka
Based on the Dear America series book by Barry Denenberg
Produced with special permission from Scholastic

February 8–March 4, 2018

“I was born here. I’m from here. I’m American.”

Witness the story of 12-year-old Ben Uchida, a Japanese-American boy whose life is changed forever following the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor. When the U.S. government forces Japanese-American citizens into incarceration camps, Ben and his family must face difficult truths about the idea of home. One young person’s struggle to understand a society allowing mass discrimination against its citizens poses questions as urgent today as they were in the past. 

Illustration by Liz Wong

SCT proudly brings this story to young audiences. In our dedication to providing bold, honest narratives to children, we aim to inspire empathy and compassion. Theater is a safe place to explore and honor the past as we prepare for the future. Audiences who valued Hana's Suitcase will appreciate this unforgettable production.

Eve Alvord Theatre

Age Recommendation: For Ages 9+ (Please read our content advisory for more information)

Running Time: Approximately 1h 10m. No intermission.

Active Audience Guide

ASL Interpreted Performances:
Public - February 24, 1:00pm
Schools - March 1, 10:30am

Audio Described Performances:
Public - February 24, 1:00pm
Schools - February 20, 10:30am

Sensory Friendly/Relaxed Performance:
February 25, 1:00pm  Buy Here or 206-441-3322


Show Sponsor:

Sheri  And  Les  Biller  Family  Foundation

Dear SCT Families, Teachers, and Patrons,

We are honored to be presenting The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 as part of our 2017-18 season at the Seattle Children’s Theatre.


The play explores Ben Uchida’s struggle as he attempts to understand a society that allows mass discrimination and injustice against humanity. The incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II focuses the spotlight on an unjust and shameful episode in American history, and poses questions as urgent today as they were in the past.


As theatre makers for young audiences, it is our responsibility to provide a safe space to examine a scary world. The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 contains sensitive material including racial profiling against Japanese Americans, offensive racial slurs, and suicide of a parent.


We strive to teach our young people to be kind, empathetic, and fair. In the play, they will see examples of offensive racial slurs and racial profiling, making them uncomfortable. Those scenes are representations of the horrific reality of how unfair and damaging racial discrimination can be, and with your assistance, we hope to guide our young audience to understand that this kind of behavior is never acceptable – not then, not now. In the play, after several months of imprisonment, Mr. Uchida, Ben’s father, is changed. After prolonged abuse and desperation within the camp, Mr. Uchida dies by suicide. The creative team is approaching this moment with extreme care and attention. This part of the play is theatricalized through shadow imagery. The moment is potent but not graphic. We want to advise, even with the thoughtful curating of the creative team, this moment, like the scene with racial slurs may cause discomfort. We realize that these topics, and these words, will be upsetting to adults and students alike, but is a reminder to all of us never to accept such injustice.


Theatre allows us to consider powerful alternatives to the realities we see. We have several community outreach strategies happening, including post-play discussions on 2/8 and 2/18; as well as four community dinners to encourage family-to-family dialogue. We encourage you to attend these events as a way to engage with our community and thoughtfully reflect on and process this experience. Our Active Audience Guide will be available online with a complete synopsis and further contextualizing. Additionally we have added resources to this letter to navigate these challenging moments.


Thank you for supporting this production and SCT as we endeavor to build a better world for our children. As Martin Luther King stated, “There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.” – Martin Luther King, 4/15/60, Raleigh, NC


Courtney Sale, Artistic Director





26 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism & Resistance:


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones


741741 Crisis Text Line


Suicide Prevention Resource Center


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


One America

OneAmerica advances the fundamental principals of democracy and justice at the local, state and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies.


Panel Discussion: Looking Back to Look Forward

Sunday, February 18th

Time: approx. 5:45PM (immediately following the 4:30pm performance)

Join us for a conversation with Internment Survivors and their families on the long-standing impact of Executive Order 9066. Moderated by KING 5 news anchor, Lori Matsukawa, this discussion will focus on how we can use history to understand our present and ultimately shape our future. This event is free for all ages.


Join SCT for dinner and an evening of conversation
(limited to 50 attendees)

February 10th, 17th, 24th and March 3rd

With generous support from the Biller Family Foundation and the Linda Hartzell Fund for Inclusion, SCT invites families attending the Saturday, 4:30pm performances of The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, to join in community dinners immediately following the play.

These shared meals are meant to promote family-to-family conversation about the play’s relevance to today’s world.

With support from SCT staff and curated table prompts, the event is entirely free to patrons and takes place in SCT’s East rehearsal room.

Reservations are required and seating is limited to those on a first come, first served basis.

UPDATE: The community dinners are now full.  Thank you for your interest!  


About the Moderators

Lori Matsukawa anchors KING 5 News at 5:00, 6:30 and 11:00. She joined KING 5 in 1983. Some of her most memorable stories include: Governor Locke’s first trade mission to China, Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and Vancouver, and her personal favorite – pulling 9-Gs in an F-16.
She received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Asian American Journalists Association (2005), was inducted into the University of Washington Communication Department’s Alumni Hall of Fame (2012) and in 2014, was inducted into NATAS Northwest’s Silver Circle for Lifetime Achievement. She volunteers with the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of WA and the Seattle Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association,  which she helped co-found.
She and her husband live in Bellevue, Washington.  They have a grown son.  

Lori  Matsukawa

M.J. McDermott is the morning meteorologist on Q13 News.  Before becoming a meteorologist, she was an actor.  Back in the 90s, she won an Emmy for her work on a children’s TV show on KSTW (with a raccoon named Rosco) and, most importantly, she acted in two shows at SCT.  She is also the author of two novels and is working on turning one of them (Frankenstein Meets Santa) into a musical.  

Mj Mc Dermott

Recommended age: 9+ 

Discussion topics:






Parking at Seattle Center

Bus Parking at Seattle Center

Ben Uchida


For Children & Young Adults: 


Paper Wishes  
Lois Sepahban

Grandfather’s Journey
Allen Say 

My Name is Sangoel
Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed 

The Bracelet
Yoshiko Uchida 

The Name Jar
Yangsook Choi 

Save Me a Seat
Sarah Weeks 

Baseball Saved Us
Ken Mochizuki 

Cynthia Kadohata
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated from their flower farm in southern California to an internment camp, she tries to hold on to her dream of owning a flower shop.



Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment 
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston 

Drawing From Memory
Allen Say 

Barbed Wire Baseball
Marissa Moss
Can a love of baseball raise a person’s hope while living under horrific circumstances? The introduction of baseball to his internment camp in World War II did just that for Kenichi Zenimura. Share the story of baseball’s vital role in Ken’s life during and after the war, when he was a professional player.


For Adults Working with Children & Young Adults: 


The Arrival
Shaun Tan
In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.



A Kid’s Guide to Asian American History: More than 70 Activities
Valerie Petrillo 

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II
Richard Reeves                                                                                                               

The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II
Jan Jarboe Russell
Crystal City was the center of a government program called "quiet passage," under which hundreds of Japanese Americans were exchanged for Americans held behind enemy lines. Jan Russell details a little-known story of how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.


Booklist prepared by Lisa Cipolla
Pierce County Library System




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