Dorinne Kondo

Dorinne Kondo, University of Southern California

Race, Genre, and the Afterlife of Historical Trauma: Scenes from Seamless

Scholars have long argued that race is “socially constructed.” But what, more specifically, are the processes through which we make race in theater as an art world? Drawing from a book that theorizes the production of race—structured inequality, racialized labor, the racialized aesthetics of genre, racial affect and affective violence—Kondo shares scenes from her play Seamless, an exploration of the historical afterlife of Japanese North American incarceration in generations like her own, who were born after the camps.

Seamless stages a theatrical view of history and identity, refracted through gender, work, family, and generation. Switching from comedic to poignant in a beat, the play centers on Diane Kubota, a successful Japanese American corporate attorney, whose life is seamlessly perfect – on the surface.  When Dr. Kathleen Goto, a Harvard psychologist, interviews Diane about her parents’ internment during World War II, the questions launch Diane on a quest that compels her to ask how well she knows herself, her family, her culture. A play about history and memory, the afterlife of trauma, and the (im)possibility of knowing the people you love most.

Dorinne Kondo (PhD Harvard) is a playwright, actor, dramaturge, and Professor of Anthropology, American Studies, and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is a foremost expert on US and international racial politics, theatre, and performance. Kondo is best known as the dramaturge for celebrated artist Anna Deavere Smith (working on Twilight: Los Angeles 1992; House Arrest; and Let Me Down Easy), but she has dramaturged for several other well-known theatre companies. Her play Seamless treats Japanese-American feminist identities. Her book About Face: Performing ‘Race’ in Fashion and Theatre (1997) won the Asian American Studies Book Award. Her current monograph, The Work of Creativity and the Politics of Aesthetics: Staging Race, (Re)making Worlds, is under contract with Duke University Press. The recipient of a dozen major prizes, she is a Getty Scholar and a Martha Sutton Weeks Fellow (Stanford Humanities Center).