James Yaegashi was in New York a year ago Sunday when his home country of Japan was hit by one of the worst earthquakes the world had ever seen.
Broadway Stars Perform in Remembrance of Japanese Earthquake
Performance will support the theater community in Japan a year after the devastating earthquake.
By David Ushery
Actor James Yaegashi organized an artist-to-artist fundraiser to support the Japanese Playwright's Association. (Published Sunday, March 11, 2012)
Updated at 1:24 PM EDT on Monday, Apr 23, 2012
He grew up in Sendai, and his parents still live in the town, which isn't far from the site of Fukushima.
"It literally hit close to home for me," he says. "Here I am across the pond ... I gotta do something, but what can I do?"
Yaegashi wanted to do more than just write a check, so the actor organized top talent from Lincoln Center and other theaters around New York for an artist-to-artist fundraiser, with the proceeds going to help rebuild Japan's decimated theater community.
The international benefit is called "Shinsai," which means "great quake" in Japanese.
Some of Japan's biggest names in theater are joining Broadway's biggest stars, like Patti LuPone, Edward Albee and Steven Sondheim, for the performance Sunday at Cooper Union.
A reworked "Pacific Overtures" -- the 1976 musical written by Stephen Sondheim -- is just one of the many 10-minute performances staged at Cooper Union.
Yaegashi's idea quickly caught on; there are 69 other theater companies performing their version of Shinsai around the world. Proceeds are going directly to the Japanese Playwrights Association.
"I don't know how much help we'll be able to give," he told NBC New York. "But we can help in some way, and to be a part of that, I'm very thankful."