From Documentary To Stage

Sometimes a story comes along that captures the heart and makes the heart its slave. Like many of our Midpen Media producers, Charlie Class has a full life and produces for the sheer fun of it. Charlie has produced hundreds of access TV shows since 1982 on topics ranging from square dancing to high tech to art and sustainability. Charlie joined the Midpen family 11 years ago during our first year here on San Antonio Road. Charlie was content to go as he was, until he met “the story.” Charlie’s good friend, Ruth Mix entrusted her daughter Claire with the telling of her experience as a nurse’s aide at the Gila River Japanese Internment Camp in Arizona. Charlie devoted himself to supporting Claire and Ruth and served as Executive Producer of a moving documentary entitled “Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story.” 

The story began on February 19, 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, designating certain areas of the United States West coast as military zones. This order paved the way for the unlawful imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese American Citizens in internment camps. Through Class Productions, Charlie also published Claire’s young adult novel about her mother’s experiences entitled “The Girl with Hair Like the Sun.” Both the documentary and the book have helped to break the silence around this terrible page in America’s WWII history. Sadly, both Ruth and Claire have passed away.  The good news is that Claire lived to see the documentary that she wrote and directed receive Best Documentary honors from the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club in 2012.  The documentary was also nominated for a Northern California Emmy Award, received two WAVE Awards and two CreaTiVe Awards. Charlie proudly displays the Press Club plaque on Midpen Media’s own Wall of Fame because he believes it represents the pinnacle of his producing career. “Karen (Adams) suggested we enter the competitions,” Class says.  “I am so grateful for all of the support I’ve received from the Media Center and the friends I’ve made there.” But this amazing story doesn’t stop here. There was a chance meeting between Charlie and a member of the Houston Repertory Theater, which has resulted in an upcoming stage version of the Ruth Mix Story! Doug Kreitz, principal instructor of the “Zoom In” Workshops and a deeply committed volunteer, introduced Charlie to his brother Gary Kreitz who serves on the Board of the Texas Repertory Theatre.  Gary fell in love with the story, and took it back to Houston where Artistic Director Steven Fenley and playwright Charles B. French fell under its spell. The rest, as they say, is history. “Hair Like the Sun” based on Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story” will have its world premier at the Texas Repertory Theatre in Houston, March 17-April 10, 2016 

To learn more about the Texas premier and to get your tickets, visit

To read more about Claire’s experience, read her interview on Discover Nikkei.

written by Becky Sanders

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