David Ono joins veterans Roy Fujii, Norman Hashisaki and Dr. Takashi Manago on stage during “Defining Courage” at the Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu last March. (Photo by Paul Vela)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

For one night only, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on June 7 will be showcasing the heroics of the Nisei soldiers of World War II.

“Defining Courage” is a journey into the legacy of the Nisei soldiers who served in the segregated military units of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.

Last October, ABC-7 news anchor David Ono and producer/editor Jeff MacIntyre brought the immersive show to the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo and it was met with a standing ovation. Since then, they have performed three sold-out shows in Hawaii in March to an audience that included former Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Rep. Jill Tokuda.

The Segerstrom performance is a natural next step and will be shot as a special for Disney ABC with the goal of turning it into a special to be shown on one of its platforms. Kim Goodwin, president of ABC News, praised “Defining Courage,” saying that the story “is one that sits forever in your soul.”

A live chorus and music accompany and add to the emotion of the story. Ono noted that for this performance, the team is working on original music in order to be freed from any copyright issues.

“Defining Courage” featured a local choir. (Darrell Miho)

“It’s scary because I know the music is so well known to the audience, it set the tone and they related to the songs, because they knew them. Hopefully the story will carry itself,” Ono said in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.

The story of the Nisei soldiers is legendary. For its size and length of service, the 100th/442nd was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. With Ono as narrator, the audience is taken to the sites of some of the most important battles of World War II and sees where Nisei soldiers fought and died.

The two journalists traveled to Europe, walking the villages and forests where the 100th/442nd made their heroic stand. At the Aratani performance, veterans were honored onstage at the show’s conclusion.

The story is one that Ono and MacIntyre have been carrying forward to this moment for the years. Ono explained that it all began as a keynote address at an Evening of Aloha gala for the Go For Broke National Education Center.

“Defining Courage” is part of the work and mission of Story Boldly, a nonprofit founded by Ono and MacIntyre to tell engaging stories using journalistic practices to educate the public about important chapters in history.

“This is a concept of storytelling we’ve created that we would like to continue to use on other topics in a similar way to reach students, that is more entertaining, captivating, that is more immersive,” Ono said.

The program featured a local color guard. (Darrell Miho)

For the June 7 show, they received crucial support from Jane Fujishige Yada, chair of the Board of Directors for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. She is the first Asian American to serve as board chair.

“Jane Fujishige Yada knew people in the Little Tokyo community and they told her about the show,” Ono recalled. “Jane was the one who got the whole thing rolling.

“It’s very expensive to put the shows on. Any money we make will be to put together an educational curriculum, all about getting this story in front of Americans. The community in Southern California has come together to raise funds and it’s going to happen now.”

Ono said they hope to get as many veterans as possible to attend. Critically, they are hopeful that the performance will raise awareness of the service and sacrifices of the Japanese American soldiers during World War II.

He said he expects that Segerstrom will be packed for an emotional and thoughtful evening.

“It’s one of the most dynamic stories in American history. I’ve always thought the goal is to be a major motion picture. Maybe we’re going to get there one theater at a time,” Ono said.

“Defining Courage” will be performed Wednesday, June 7, at 7 p.m. at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa. Purchase tickets at www.scfta.org/events/2023/story-boldlys-defining-courage. More info: www.DefiningCourageShow.com.

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