Students Write Plays
In May of 2010, we launched a playwriting workshop as part of Hibakusha Stories’ curriculum, in which students responded to survivor stories with short plays. We welcomed hibakusha Shigeko Sasamori as the first partner in this program. She visited the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy and High School of Telecommunication in Brooklyn and shared her story.
This playwriting workshop was conceived and designed by NYC-based playwright, Chiori Miyagawa, in collaboration with the former educational director of New York Theatre Workshop, Caroline Reddick Lawson. Chiori worked with students to write theatrical responses to Ms. Sasamori’s testimony. As you can see by these beautifully written plays, the students were truly touched by the lessons of history and the generosity of Ms. Sasamori to share her most painful experience with them.
Please watch for future young playwrights’ work, as Chiori expands and evolves the playwriting workshop component of Hibakusha Stories in the next five years with various survivors and playwrights.
I’m 16 now and still I’m not fully sure as to what happened that day that everything changed. My father never came home that night. Mother said everything would be fine. I remember it being very dark, so dark I could hardly see. I could only hear cries and screams, Mother didn’t cry but I could feel her chest moving fast. It went faster and faster until it stopped. It just stopped. I didn’t say anything; I just lay there on top of her. The only thing I remember after that is waking up in the hospital. I called out for her, my mother and this strange face by my side said, “all will be fine.”
Can’t Give Up
Narrator: Hiroshima, August 7th, 1945. A wasteland, a couple in despair converse.
Mother: I’m going out today again. I’m going to go out a little further this time.
Father: Honey, we were out the whole day yesterday, you’re in no condition to go out again.
Mother: Well, I have to.
Father: You need to rest. God forbid something happens to you out there.
Mother: I can’t think about that, you can’t either. I have to do what’s best for my baby. She’s probably out there hoping and praying that I come get her. I have to go get her, do you not understand?
Father: Ok. Well, I’m coming with you.
Narrator: Mother gets up to go.
Mother: You can’t. You have to stay here in case she comes home or someone comes for information or something.
Narrator: Father stands looking a bit helpless and confused.
Mother: Its ok. All will be fine.
Narrator: Mother walks off.
Father: Honey, I love you.
Mother: I love you too. Now, be strong.
I was only 9 years old. Everything that was new has now turned old. Now, I am 21 years old. My mother is now in a better place. The black rain seems to be the reason why my cancer has appeared. Many people were hurt and many lives were lost. All of this because of a bomb, it seemed it was our cost to pay. At the age of nine I no longer had a home because the fire took it. The trees, which blossomed, were now burned and decayed. All there is are ashes, memories, and flashbacks. It hurts me every day I see this picture, but in it I can see my mother, telling me that it is my story I need to tell.
I cannot see
No pain. No Fear.
Black clouds float in the air.
And as it all disappears
I see monsters everywhere!!!
I look around
Everything is red.
I open my mouth and things
Are not said.
I hear no words for the things
Going on in my head.
Skin crisp and black.
It’s so unattached.
That’s all I want!
But no one is helping until father
When I get up, my face is a mess.
Puss oozing everywhere.
I am burnt. With no skin.
But I am alive. Now. I’m here to tell.
I will never forget that day. I was just a young boy then. My mom didn’t show much emotion, she acted like nothing happened. But I knew something happened. Everything around me looked like a pile of sand. My birthday was a day before the bomb was dropped. It was a normal day. We were going shopping for my gift when we saw a plane fly overhead. I was amazed. That was the first time I had seen one. My mother and I were pushed down a few seconds after. I am still shocked to this day; 12 years later we are still alive. My mom died 10 years after the happiest and saddest day of my life.
Sister: What happened?
Little Brother: (Crying) I don’t know. Where is mom? I need her.
Sister: Don’t cry. We will be ok.
Little Brother: I can’t see. I want mom!
Old Man: Your mother is not coming. See, she doesn’t want to think about you. She has her own problems now!
Sister: What do you mean?
Old Man: Almost all the people around you are dead.
Sister: I won’t believe that my mom can’t find us.
Old Man: How do you suppose that little girl?
Sister: When I was younger, she said that if there was ever a problem she would find us by the sounds of our spirits.
Little Brother: They will send a message.
Old Man: That’s nonsense, but I’ll listen.
Little Brother: I want mom and I think she is close by.
Old Man: Why do you think that?
Little Brother: Because I see something that is in the black sky.
Runs after it.
Sister: Wait up.
Old Man: The children are setting themselves up.
All the people of Hiroshima weren’t ready for the fateful day that set them up forever.
On August 17, 1945 in Hiroshima I was at the playground racing around with my friends when all of a sudden one of my friends pointed to the sky saying “Look up.” I did and I saw a plane zooming past, we thought it was one of ours so we chased it but soon we knew it was an enemy plane. We tried to run for cover but the bomb exploded and everything was blown to pieces. After the blast I tried looking around for my friends and family. I soon heard a voice calling to me and it was my mom. That day we saw lots of people injured or dead and some walking around like zombies begging for water!
Dad: Hello my friend, have you seen my son Yatomato?
F: I’m afraid not.
Dad: How come?
F: After the U.S dropped an atomic bomb on our land everything is dust and the radiation made everyone crazy and many are dead.
Dad: Are you sure you can’t find my son in here?
F: I doubt it, there are many civilians that are roasted to a fried crisp and others are dead.
Dad: My son could be one of those civilians!
F: I will try my best to find your son, Yatamato.
Dad: Thank you very much! I hope you can find him.
I was at home one day when my son was only 4 years old. This day he looked out the window and said to me “Wow! Look mommy, look!” I looked out the window to see what he was so anxious for me to see. There was a plane high up in the sky, some miles away from the house. “Oh. Well, doesn’t that look nice” I said. Then a very small dot dropped from the plane and BOOM!! A massive explosion formed right in front of our eyes. I went through the city after this and saw a devastating and horrible sight. People were completely burned and literally melting. I tried to help as much as I could, but I wasn’t much use. My son and I were very lucky.
Burned and Heart Broken
Narrator: August 7, 1945. A nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Buildings are either completely destroyed or barely standing. Moaning, screaming and crying is heard throughout the streets of the city. Many people lay in excruciating pain and even more are dead. Others walk around like zombies covered in blood and boiling skin.
A scream is heard by a young man who can barely walk.
Little girl: Somebody please help!
Narrator: The man rushes as fast as he can towards the screams.
Man: I’m coming. Don’t worry hold on!
Narrator: The man pushes bricks and destroyed furniture out of the way to get the to the person calling for help. He soon finds a little girl trying to save her mother who has been trapped under a pile of bricks.
Little Girl: Please help my mommy. She’s stuck.
Man: Okay. Just step back. I will try my best to pull her out.
Narrator: The man tried and tried but with his body in such bad condition he couldn’t pull her out. The woman, who was so weak, opened her eyes slowly.
Woman: I, I can’t feel my legs.
Man: Don’t worry I will do my best to get you out.
Narrator: As he managed to push some bricks out of the way he couldn’t complete his task. He was far too weak to free her lower body from the pile of bricks.
Woman: But I can’t just leave you here to die.
Woman: If you don’t, we will all die. This building is going to collapse any minute now. Just let me go, you can’t save me… but you can save my daughter.
Narrator: The building rumbles as more and more of it caves in. He looks at the woman and then at the little girl. Soon, more of the building crumbles.
Woman: Go, before we all get trapped in here!
Narrator: He grabs the little girl and rushes off. The little girl screams and cries for her mother as she is carried away. The man soon finds himself trapped. Huge piles of bricks block their path to the outside. But he tried his very best to push the bricks out of the way. He’s only able to create a small path through the bricks.
Man: Go on, you have to go through.
Little Girl: No, you have to come with me (sobbing)
Man: I’m sorry I can’t. I’m too big to fit through. Go on get out fast!
Narrator: The little girl rushes through and gets out just in time. Sadly the man and her mother were buried alive under the burning building. But the girl was very lucky and grateful that the heroic man who sacrificed his life for hers.
He was about 4 years old when he came to stay with us. I can remember this because I was 10 years old. My mom just said he had been through a tragedy and needed love. It turned out that he survived a deadly attack on Hiroshima by the Americans. He didn’t talk much and it looked like he resented us. I can understand now. After all, who would be happy with living with people whose country dropped a bomb on your country and put your mother to rest. It took him a while to cozy up to us but he finally did and I am proud to call him my brother.
A War Affair
A mother sits in a hospital bed staring at her newborn baby. The nurse walks in and stands at the side of the bed.
Nurse: Oh, what a precious baby!
Mother: Thank you very much!
Nurse: I can already tell he’s going to be a heart breaker.
Mother: Well, I hope not. I already had too much heartbreak in my lifetime. My baby is going to be an example.
Nurse: An example of what?
Mother: An example of a loving man who doesn’t cause pain to anyone.
Nurse: I can see your point. But what about defense of self and country?
Mother: Very much true but that’s not what I want for my family. We can all help make this world a better place without violence.
Nurse: How do you suggest we do so?
Mother: Every one less person that kills makes the world a better place, don’t you agree?
Nurse: Yes, I do, but one person can’t bring the world to peace.
Mother: If a mother passes the message of peace down to her son, then hopefully he would do the same with his children. Then it would influence generations to come.
Nurse: That’s a great perspective.
Mother: I can also keep spreading the message of peace to others in my lifetime.
Nurse: So, I guess you are on a mission; you have inspired me to maybe do that same,
Mother: I hope I have!
The nurse smiles and proceeds to exit the room.
Hiroshima, August 8th, 1945
Early Morning, Church, though in Shigeko’s world it’s dark. Quiet.
Girl: Help me
Girl: Help me my name is S_____ I live on 101 Tokyo Drive. Help…
Man: There’s no one here, no one but me.
Girl: Who are you?
Man: I am who I am.
Girl: Can you please help me?
Man: I have helped enough.
Girl: Please sir, I can’t see and can barely move.
Man: I have helped enough, I have heard your courage and call from thousands of miles away and I have sat with you.
Girl: I’m hungry.
Man: There’s enough courage in your belly to feed hundreds.
Girl: How will I get out of here?
Man: Your wait is almost done.
-Girl is rescued-
Girl: What about the man?
Rescuer: What man?
Girl: The man that sat with me. The man that kept whispering in my ear telling me everything was going to be ok.
Rescuer: There was no man, just you.
Girl: Just me?
Rescuer: Just you.
Just when it almost slips her mind, Shigeko knows the man. The man that sat with her as she went in and out of consciousness, whispering in her ear that everything was going to be ok. He was God.
Mother: Where are you KC? Have you seen KC?
Schoolteacher: I’m not sure, everyone looks the same!
Mother: What do you mean1? Where is she?
School Teacher: I’m sorry but you must find her on your own. Call out to her.
Mother: There are so many children. I cannot even hear them speak.
School Teacher: Be strong and reach out to as many children as you can and find her.
Mother: Alright, Thank you. KC.
The mother searches and asks as many children as she can. She kneels down and blesses all children for being strong
Student: She has a ring that is engraved, worn on her thumb?
Mother: Yes! Yes! Have you seen her?
Student: (struggles to speak) She’s right next to me.
Mother: (looks at KC’s burnt body and the vivid ring standing out) Oh! KC! Why!? Speak to me honey!
KC: I love you (gasps for air and dies)
Student: She’s in a better place now. Be strong!
A man walking into a makeshift hospital wanting to give people water, but there are no living people. He comes across a child, who is barely moving.
Man: Child, are you ok?
Child: I’m going to be ok.
Man: Where are your parents?
Child: My mother is in surgery and my father didn’t make it.
Man: Oh, child. I’m sorry.
Child: Thank you sir.
Man: Have some water. I think its safe.
The child drinks some water. After a few minutes, his persona changes.
Child: Thank you sir! I feel better already.
Child: Thank you so much. I needed this. I feel you’ve given me life.
Man: and you deserve it, child.
A sunny afternoon on August the in Hiroshima. Students gathered around the schoolyard before school began.
Little girl: Bye mommy and daddy see you later.
Mom: Bye honey, we love you.
Dad: Be good.
Little girl: I love you guys too!
Mom and dad leave as the little girl runs over to her friends
LG: Hi guys. I’m so excited for school today.
Friend 1: Me too! I can’t wait for show and tell!
Friend 2: I brought a paper crane my mom showed me how to make last night.
LG: That’s so cool! I have a necklace my dad gave me.
F1: That’s nice. I bought in a (pauses and looks at the sky) Hey…look up!
All three look up
LG: It’s an airplane. I wonder what its there for.
F1: Its huge. Look it’s dropping…
There is a huge explosion and suddenly everything fades to darkness
Jia W. Lui
In Hiroshima on August 7th 1945 a child tries to help his mother. Everything is destroyed. The mother is injured inside a crumbling house.
Mother: Stop. Leave me!
Child: Why? I must save you!
Mother: You cant!
Child: I can!
Mother: You must leave!
Child: Believe in me!
Mother: I believe in you!
Child: Let me help you!
Mother: I believe that you can move on without me.
Child: But mom! I want to be your good child.
Mother: Leave and be my good child! Obey!
Child: I must obey, mom!
The child leaves without his mother, crying
A visitor goes to a class to talk
Visitor: Hello everyone. How are all of you today?
Class: Very well thank you for coming.
Visitor: Well, I’m here today to talk about the world celebration of nuclear proliferation.
Class: But why is nuclear proliferation so important?
Visitor: It’s a very important event because now a great danger that once terrified our whole world is gone.
Class: But what was so bad about it?
V: Well because once in the 1900’s two bombs were dropped in Japan on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Class: What was so bad about it though?
V: Well, the horrible thing about it was that over 90,000 people in Japan instantly died.
Class: Oh my God. What happen to those who survived?
Visitor: Well, many were left burned completely black, others crushed by their own homes. But many lost all their skin, walking around with peels of it hanging off their bodies.
Class: Wow! That’s crazy. Were so glad that we’re nuclear free.
Visitor: Yes and it was also the anniversary to the first bomb that dropped 100 years ago which is why were so proud to announce the world is nuclear free.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
It has been 5 days after an atomic bomb hit the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Why the bomb was dropped was unknown but the destruction it caused was very much visible in the now destroyed city. Aid to the Argentine people has just arrived. One American helper named Steven is walking through what used to be a high school, looking for any survivors.
Steven: (With a flash light, aiming it anywhere)
Hello? Anyone? I’m here to help, please, if anyone remains with life, make any sound or do anything to make yourselves known present.
He heard nothing for a few minutes but he continued his search, stepping on what may have been human flesh. He felt a live presence near but couldn’t find it. He wasn’t giving up. He had to save this soul. Steven continued walking. He then heard a small moan and quickly jerked his head around. His eyes wandered until he saw a human form, lying on the floor, covered in very thick black ash.
Steven: (running and wiping the thick black ashes off the body, revealing the face of a girl) Oh my. I … I need to get you to a hospital. Do you have any relatives outside of Argentina? … Sorry, I …
He felt a bit awkward asking someone who probably couldn’t even talk a question, but the girl tried hard to speak.
Girl: Um… eh, eh … Esperanza.
Steven: Your name? It is lovely. It means hope, and hope never dies. I promise to save your life, Esperanza.
Esperanza: (Moans) … gr…gra…gracias.
Steven: Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone…
Last Phone Call
Hiroshima, August 7, 1945
Mother: Excuse me; do you know where my daughter is?
Neighbor: What does she look like?
M: She has black hair and her skin is very smooth and white.
N: I’m sorry there is no one in Hiroshima who fits that description.
M: How come? She is only twelve years old and two hours ago I was talking to her on the phone.
N: I am sorry, I can’t help you.
M: Please help me! I need to find her, she may be hurt.
N: It is impossible to find anyone. Everything and everyone is burnt.
M: She was in the church.
N: The church is gone.
M: Oh my God! I hope God will protect her.
N: I hope God will protect everyone.
M: I am sorry. Can you look at her picture one last time?
N: Oh some one, I know what she looked like, this picture is useless now.
M: I am worried about my daughter.
N: Listen with your heart to locate where your daughter is.
M: Does that really work?
N: Of course, mothers and daughters always have a strong connection.
Mother: Thank you. No matter how my daughter is going to look I will love her and take care. My lovely daughter, don’t give up, mommy will find you soon.
Amid the scorched and wasted land, five men huddle. They cluster not for warmth, but comfort as many tears fall.
Man I: I cry bitter tears for my house, which I saved for years.
The Group: (murmured) such time lost.
Man 2: I cry resentful tears for my wounds.
The Group: (murmured) such potential wasted.
Man 3: I cry in sorrow for my wife.
The Group: Such a lovely innocent lost.
Man 4: I cry wrath for my enemies.
The Group: Such enemies who have taken all but the air that we breathe.
Man 5: I cry in anguish for my missing son.
The Group: Such a boy will surely return to us.
Mere feet away, as the tears fall, lay the body of the son. Indistinguishable from the fellow corpses, never knowing of his father’s tears or the group’s hope.
An Apartment, NYC 2010
Daughter: Mommy, do you think Grandma remembers living through World War II?
Mother: Hmm…Well, she was 12 around then. So yes, maybe she does.
D: Why does the U.S cause so much destruction?
M: (with grim amusement) Because were the most powerful superpower in the world today. I suppose the politicians feel this gives us good reason to do whatever we feel like, no matter whom it harms.
D: (thoughtfully) What is Russia or some other country were to drop a nuclear bomb on New York City?
M: Honey, there are 23,500 nuclear weapons on earth today, each more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Not only would millions of people die upon impact, but also the radiation would kill many more for generations to come.
D: (Confused) How? The other generations wouldn’t even be there when the bomb hits.
M: Illness passed through the generations like leukemia. It makes your hair fall out and causes all sorts of internal problems. The bomb could permanently disfigure people, cause severe burns. Hundreds of lives could be wiped out in one fell swoop.
D: (Stunned) Mommy, cant we stop it?
M: (Smiles) You ask that now? If you’re asking that now the answer is yes. It’s something worth fighting for.
Daughter/Patient: Where’s my mom?
Doctor: Young lady, we are still looking.
D/P: Oh my god. Where is she? Will you find her please? She’s all I have.
Doctor: I know they’re trying. I’m doing my best. What are your name and your mother’s name young lady?
D/P: My name is Anne. My mother’s name was also Anne; her full name is Annalise Patrone Eliot.
Doctor: Oh, I’m sure she’s fine. We’re taking the names down now of the people we’ve found after the explosion.
D/P: Oh please hurry, Mr. Doctor. She all I’ve got and I can’t go on without her. I’ll die.
Doctor: We’re checking now Anne but there’s no guarantee she’s one of the survivors in this hospital.
D/P: (tears fill her eyes) Oh, I understand. Just please. She’s all I have. Please do try your best.
Doctor: Oh, young lady we will. But there is no guarantee, about 500 people are in here that have lost families in a short period of time including myself and I’m still looking for my daughter, son, and wife.
Mother: Daughter, your hair!
Daughter: Mom, I feel so sick. Help me, I need water.
Mother: My love, I have no water. I’m so sorry. Come here.
Daughter: Mother, will we die?
Mother: No, we’re strong. God will save us. But remember I love you.
Daughter: I love you too. But where is Daddy?
Mother: Well, baby…I’m not sure. We can’t find him...