All Classical Radio James Depreist

Stage & Studio: Meet The Kashiwabaras

In her new podcast Dmae Lo Roberts talks with four members of a busy Portland "theater family" about juggling schedules, "Matilda the Musical" and more.

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From left: Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara, Mila Kashiwabara, Lulu Kashiwabara and John Kashiwabara.

I have the distinction of working with every member of the talented Kashiwabara family. First I worked with John Kashiwabara as a scenic designer for three shows I directed, including Where The Mountain Meets The Moon, at Oregon Children’s Theatre, in which his daughter Lulu Kashiwabara, 19, was an actor. Last year I finished a project for MediaRites with Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara, who was the mental health consultant and co-editor of The -Ism Youth Files book and podcast project. Mila Kashiwabara, 13, was featured as one of the youth writers and hosted one episode of our podcast.

Lulu just returned from her first year at Montclair State University in New Jersey, where she majored in theater. Mila just finished an impressive run in a principal and endearing role in Borderline at Milagro Theatre, and is now reprising her youth role in the exuberant and heartwarming production of Matilda the Musical, based on the book by Roald Dahl, at Portland Playhouse through June 30.

Subscribe and listen to Stage & Studio on: AppleGoogleSpotify, Android and Sticher. Hear past shows on Stage & Studio websiteTheme music: Clark Salisbury.

Mila Kashiwabara before the start of "Matilda the Musical" at Portland Playhouse.
Mila Kashiwabara before the start of “Matilda the Musical” at Portland Playhouse.

And John is now working with me as the set designer for the touring production of Shizue: An American Story, for which I wrote the libretto, and that I’m also directing for Portland Opera.

Both parents work full-time outside of theater. John works as an architect and public art designer at rhiza A+D Architecture, and Eleanor (Dr. Gil-Kashiwabara, Psy.D.) founded Luminosa Psychological Services, a consulting and training organization for multicultural/cross-cultural therapy. She began her acting career later in life largely because of her daughters.

In this “living room” edition of Stage & Studio, I visited with the Kashiwabaras to talk about what it’s like to be a theater family. You’ll also hear praise for Portland’s two professional youth theaters, the Northwest Children’s Theater and Oregon Children’s Theatre. The family credits both organizations for training Lulu and Mila, but also gives tribute to the late Stan Foote for his role in giving the family theater opportunities and mentorship. Read ArtsWatch’s tribute by Bob Hicks to Stan Foote. Plus they give a shoutout for OCT’s current fundraiser.

Young actors in the cast of "Matilda the Musical" at Portland Playhouse, from left: Henry Tullis, Finley Wright, Jake Fung, Madeline Cromer, Nia Scott, Mila Kashiwabara, Chenoa Johnson & Claire Rigsby.
Young actors in the cast of “Matilda the Musical” at Portland Playhouse, from left: Henry Tullis, Finley Wright, Jake Fung, Madeline Cromer, Nia Scott, Mila Kashiwabara, Chenoa Johnson & Claire Rigsby.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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