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Teaching Notes - Allegiance

July 7, 2020

Welcome to Teaching Notes - a blog series written by a teacher to help other teachers #TeachtheSongbook. 

 By GASF Volunteer: Sue Ackley 

This Month's Teaching Notes:


Inspired by personal experiences of George Takei (Star Trek), Allegiance follows the harrowing journey of a family as they are sent to a Japanese American internment camp during WWII.


"We look like enemy
They see disloyal
Let them accuse me or deport me if they wish!
They talk of liberty
All empty words
They promise justice for our people
Look around!



Image from the Songbook Foundation's current exhibit installation titled, Of Thee I Sing: Politics on Stage. Learn more about our current exhibit here. 


What's it all about?


Inspired by the personal experiences of George Takei, Allegiance follows one Japanese American family during WWII. Their lives were upended when they were forced into an internment camp. Throughout their struggle to persevere and forgive, divided loyalties would haunt them for decades. Read more about it here.


What's going on in U.S. politics?


Barack Obama was re-elected President in 2012 as the War in Afghanistan raged on. Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Eastern seaboard wreaking havoc throughout. Dramatic changes came when Maine became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and Washington legalized marijuana.


What topics are covered in the musical?


  • Allegiance
  • Forgiveness
  • incarceration
  • Internment
  • Legacy
  • Loyalty
  • Perseverance


Start a discussion:


  • What is the legacy of the Japanese internment camps?

  • How does music affect the tone of a play when the storyline covers a dark period in history?

  • Compare and contrast the Japanese American internment camps to prisoners of war camps.

  • Because Allegiance is based on the personal experience of a celebrity, did that ensure its success?

  • What aspects of the story resonate with you?


What's been said about the musical?


  • Allegiance is "the first [Broadway] musical created by Asian Americans, directed by an Asian American ... with a predominantly Asian cast ... [and] an Asian-American viewpoint informing the work". Read more about it here.


  • The show wants to illuminate a dark passage in American history with complexity and honesty, but the first requirement of any Broadway musical is to entertain. While well-intentioned and polished, “Allegiance” struggles to balance both ambitions, and doesn’t always find an equilibrium. Read more about it here.

  • It's a triumph of a rare sort, shedding light in a dark corner of our history with uncommon generosity of spirit. Read more about it here.



Useful Lesson Plans and Ideas


  1. Bring the World of Allegiance to your Classroom!

  2. Japanese American Internment: Fear Itself

  3. Japanese American Internment Camps During WWI

  4. Teaching Japanese-American Internment Using Primary Resources

  5. A Lesson on the Japanese American Internment

  6. Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Online Archive


Where can I find out more?



Broadway Video: Allegiance


Allegiance: A New American Musical - on Theater Talk




Up next month: Cabaret  

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come here the music play and celebrate at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. It might seem a bit seedy, but it’s 1931 when the economy is in crisis and the Nazi Party is on the rise. Come to the cabaret!


Happy Teaching! Please share your success in the classroom with us by posting about your lesson plan using the hashtag #TeachtheSongbook and tagging us @songbookfoundation.



A Note from the Author: I can’t imagine life without music. When tunes float by, memories flood in. My foot starts tapping, fingers start snapping, and I get caught up in the emotion of the song.  For 28 years, music was always a key component in my classroom. It never failed to grab the attention of my students and made past cultures come alive with connections to daily life.


I’m excited to open up a discussion about the new Songbook exhibit, Of Thee I sing Politics on Stage. It’s a storytelling device where cultural values are seen in the context of music. Including musical theater in your classroom has never been easier. Join me in this forum where you can share your lesson plans and get ideas from others. It’s your point of access for creative ways to engage your students through music. Tell me what works and what’s missing. Let’s start a conversation and get those toes tapping.


 Sue Ackley

Contact me at:


Keep an eye out for our other installments coming soon...