Storytellers Nyla Fujii-Babb and Dann Seki to Present Their Story, “Okäsan”
Jodie Chiemi Ching
On Saturday, July 27, the Military Intelligence Service Veterans Club will hold a “Nisei Veterans Summer Special” event at the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse (520 Kamoku St., across from ‘Iolani School) from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is supported by the various Nisei veterans organizations on O‘ahu.
The highlight of the day will be a storytelling presentation by Nyla Fujii-Babb and Dann Seki titled “Okäsan.” Their story is based on the experience of U.S. Air Force Col. Bruce Hollywood’s search for his Japanese birth mother. When Shinye Gima, vice president of the MIS Veterans Club, read the heartrending story in the Washington Post, he quickly asked Fujii-Babb and Seki to script a presentation for the event.
Hollywood was content in his upbringing by his adoptive parents, the late Edward and Eleanor Hollywood. He never felt the need to seek out his birth parents, despite encouragement from his adoptive mother.
Early one morning in 2005, he had a heart attack in the Pentagon parking lot and was taken by ambulance to the Walter Reed Army Hospital. Faced with the possibility of death, he had two regrets. One was that he might not be able to help his son apply for college. The other was that he never got to thank the Japanese woman who gave birth to him and then gave him up for adoption. At that moment he wanted to tell her, “I lived the best life ever. I’m a colonel in the United States Air Force. I’ve got beautiful children. Life is really good,” he told the Washington Post.
“Okäsan” is the story of how Hollywood was reunited with his birth mother, Nobue Ouchi, thanks to a chance meeting with U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr., who headed the Indo-Pacific Command prior to retiring last year. Harris, now the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, embraced the Japanese American community, particularly its World War II Nisei veterans. He is the son of a Caucasian Navyman and a Japanese woman who met and married in post World War II Japan.
Hollywood and Harris happened to meet at an airport in Virginia. They were both heading to Germany to attend the same conference. The two men shared stories and learned they both had Japanese mothers. Seki and Fujii-Babb tell their story in “Okasan.”
Nyla-Fujii-Babb has been a storyteller, director, actress and producer for over 30 years in Hawai‘i. She is currently on the roster of artists with the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa Statewide Cultural Extension Program. She also serves on the board of directors of a nonprofit dance/theatre company called Monkey Waterfall.
Some of her stage appearances include Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, UH Kennedy Theatre, Palikü Theatre, UH Hilo and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. On the Mainland, she has performed at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles and the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.
Dann Seki is a stage and screen actor and storyteller. His most recent stage appearance was in Manoa Valley Theatre’s musical production, “Allegiance.” He has appeared in numerous plays in Honolulu and Los Angeles. Some of Seki’s television and film credits for productions filmed in Hawai‘i are “Go For Broke,” “Under the Blood Red Sun,” “Hawai‘i Five-0,” “Baywatch Hawaii” and “Magnum, P.I.” Seki has been storytelling at various venues in the Islands since 1994.
Seki was also part of a production called “Pearl Harbor Remembered,” which took the oral histories of ordinary people who experienced the attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and performed them on stage. His father was in Baker Company, 100th Infantry Battalion.
The “Nisei Veterans Summer Special” program will also include a talk by Tom Coffman, who has written many historical books about Hawai‘i, including his most recent titled, “Tadaima! I Am Home: A Transitional Family History.”
Kealohapau‘ole will provide musical entertainment.
To register for the event, contact Shinye Gima at 524-1919 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is $30 per person (payable by check made out to “MIS Veterans Club” and mailed to MIS Veterans Club, P.O. Box 3021, Hon., HI 96802) and includes a bentö and bottled water. The bento choices are: (A) Garlic chicken nori-maki; (B) Shrimp nori-maki; (C) Karaage chicken and rice; and (D) Vegetarian. Free parking will be available at Ala Wai Elementary School; gates open at 9 a.m. Street parking is also available. Those requiring physical assistance can be dropped off at the clubhouse entrance.