Philip Kan Gotanda, one of America’s leading playwrights, has created an extensive body of work about the Asian American experience. Stories of identity, race, conflict, pain, joy and love resonate through his work. Spark talks with Gotanda at the American Conservatory Theater, where his play “After the War” is being staged.

Commissioned by A.C.T., “After the War” is set post-World War II in a boarding house in San Francisco’s Japantown. The diverse cast of characters, including Japanese Americans, African Americans, poor whites and a Russian Jew, portray, from their very different points of view, the interracial conflicts that arose out of the Japanese American internment.

In his work, Gotanda, whose parents were sent to an internment camp in 1942, tells the particulars of his own life experiences, his struggle with identity and the history of Japanese American society. He says, “You should write because you have something to say.”

In his late teens, Gotanda traveled to Japan, looking for a place where he could find “racial anonymity.” Instead, he was regarded not as Japanese, but as a sansei, a third-generation Japanese American. Gotanda returned to the United States, graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara and earned a law degree from Hastings College of Law. While working at the North Beach-Chinatown Legal Aid Society in San Francisco, he wrote his first play, a musical entitled “The Avocado Kid, or Zen in the Art of Guacamole,” based on a classic Japanese children’s tale.

Gotanda has also worked with the Asian American Theater Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Campo Santo, the East West Players, the Manhattan Theatre Club, the Mark Taper Forum, the New York Shakespeare Festival and the San Jose Repertory Theatre, among many others. He is also a noted filmmaker whose works include “The Kiss,” “Drinking Tea” and “Life Tastes Good.”

Philip Kan Gotanda 3 August,2015Spark

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