Karissa J Murrell-Myers as Himiko Hamilton
Meet Karissa J. Murrell Myers, an actress in the play "Tea", directed by Helen Young and written by Velina Hasu Houston. Five Japanese women are thrust into deepest Kansas with their GI husbands shortly after World War II. They were supposed to become a part of the great American melting pot, but instead experience racism and xenophobia. "Tea" shares the universal stories of innocent love, cultural bonding and baggage, and the longing for acceptance. Helen Young directed an honest telling of this heart wrenching tale. The actresses work as a seamless ensemble and their individual character work is strong. It's unusual to have a play featuring a cast of all Asian actresses and this cast and crew celebrate the opportunity boldly. "Tea" runs until December 13th at Prologue Theatre Company http://prologuetheatreco.org/events/tea/
WHAT'S YOUR PERSONAL STORY?
I was born and raised in Boise, ID, where I did my undergrad in theatre at Boise State University. I moved to Honolulu in 2011 to pursue my masters in Western Performance at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There, I taught undergraduate level performance classes and workshops, which was a terrific experience and one of the best things about my education at UH. Having graduated, I bummed around the country and New Zealand for a few months before moving to Chicago with my husband last March. I still feel new to Chicago, but have already fallen in love with the culture, the people, and definitely the theatre scene. I also recently adopted a rescue dog named Rosie, who brings a lot of energy and love to our lives.
WHAT'S YOUR CHARACTER STORY IN "TEA"?
Himiko is a Japanese war-bride, having married an American soldier after WWII after becoming pregnant. They move to Kansas, where she explores her new identity as a wife, a mother, and what it means to be American and Japanese simultaneously, particularly in a place and time where being different is not easy. Her life in America is not at all what she imagined it would be like and instead, experiences an overwhelming amount of pain and isolation from the challenges she faces.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES YOUR CHARACTER FACE TELLING THIS STORY?
One of the greatest challenges Himiko faces is the lack of community and support. She has no real friends to speak of, and her domestic life is full of unrest. She has completely lost contact with her family in Japan after being essentially disowned. Even the other war-brides that live near her have not formed a community of their own, so she feels extremely isolated. The relationship between her husband and herself is one of obscene physical abuse and turmoil, which greatly affects their daughter, and leads to a shattering of their family.
HOW DOES YOUR CHARACTER OVERCOME THOSE CHALLENGES?
Himiko is endlessly searching for true peace from all the challenges with which she is confronted. In her quest for this, she decides to protect herself from her abusive husband in a dramatic and rather definite way. She also brings four other Japanese war-brides together to create a community amongst themselves in an effort to bring solace not only to herself, but to them and to their families as well. But despite all of the terrible things that Himiko experiences, she is not broken or despondent. She is strong, holds her head high, and makes bold choices that few people would dare to make, except in perhaps the direst of circumstances. Her story is a universal one, one of courage, desperation, and the intense desire to find a place to belong.
ANY LAST COMMENTS?
I was pretty terrified when I got the role, to be honest. Playing Himiko demands strength, vulnerability, and a willingness to shine light on certain dark places of the soul we would all like to imagine don't exist. I was a ball of nerves our first rehearsal, worried that I didn't have what it takes to play this role properly or truthfully. I would never have been able to get through this without Helen, our director. With her fierce guidance, I was able to navigate (and occasionally stumble) through all the complicated emotions and choices that make up Himiko's story. I'm really grateful to have had this opportunity to work on such a beautiful play with a cast and creative team who are talented, whip-smart, and tremendously fearless.