Magician David Hirata has changed the name of his show, now playing in Berkeley, California, in response to objections from Japanese-Americans as reported on The Mercury website. The show was originally called “The J*p Box” and is now called “A Box Without a Bottom.”
Mr. Hirata is a Japanese-American whose mother’s family was interned in a “segregation camp” during World War II. He posted news of the new title on the theater’s website in an essay titled “A name change and an apology.”
“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused,” he wrote.
Mr. Hirata received complaints that his use of the term “normalized use of a slur” and was “harsh and degrading.”
His show will run through the first of December and features the story of the 19th-century Japanese magician, Namigoro Sumidagawa. The original title reflected the mocking the magician received. The new title references one of the magician’s effect, Soko-nashi Bako (the “bottomless box”). Mr. Hirata noted that American magic manufacturers appropriated the trick and sold it under the derogatory name.
Mr. Hirata said the show traces Japanese-American history, told through magic. “We start with Namigoro Sumidagawa and his story and his interaction with Wellington Tobias, which says something about attitudes towards race in America, and weave that with my own personal history as a magician and my interest in the magic of these men. And my own identity as a Japanese-American then weaves in the fact of the internment as part of my family history.”
Mr. Hirata said that he “was extremely nervous when I considered the title.” He discussed the title with friends in San Diego as he premiered the show before bringing it to Berkeley.
In his post on the theater’s website he wrote that“[t]he higher-profile run of the show here in the Bay Area exposed the show to a broader audience. Subsequent discussions with the Japanese-American community have led me to realize that I have simply underestimated the raw pain of the ‘J’ word. The title itself provides insufficient context to justify its use.
Though I have a real connection with the account of the Soko-nashi Bako, the raw pain of the ‘J word’ is not my story to tell.”
Read more about Mr. Hirata, his show and the decision he made on The Mercury’s website here.
Visit The Marsh Theater’s website and information about Mr. Hirata here.