Rodney Kageyama Dies: Actor And Asian-American Activist Was 77

Actor, activist and Japanese-American community personality Rodney Kageyama, 77, died in his sleep early on December 9, according to his spouse.

Kageyama had major roles in Karate Kid IV with Hilary Swank, the Ron Howard film Gung Ho and the sitcom based on the film that followed, and the groundbreaking TV movie Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes with Max Von Sydow. He was a member of SAG and Actors Equity.

In addition to numerous roles in film and television, Kageyama became a well-known community activist, regularly emceeing in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, as well as being a voice promoting the need for more Asian-Americans in the media.

Among the many social activist and community organizations Kageyama was affiliated with were the Asian-American Pacific Artists Association, The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), East West Players, The Japanese American National Museum, and Nissei Week Japanese Festival..

Kageyama began his career in San Francisco in 1965 as one of the original members of the Asian- American Theater Company, and attended the American Conservatory Theater. In 1979, he moved to Los Angeles, where he joined the Asian-American theater group East West Players (EWP), working as an actor, director, and designer.

In 1985 he received a Drama-Logue Award for Costume Design for EWP’s Roshomon. He later directed The Grapevine, written by Grateful Crane Ensemble founder Soji Kashiwagi and produced at the Los Angeles Theater Center in 1993.

In 2001, he played Erronius in an all Asian-American production of the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at EWP.  Kageyama was also featured in the Golden Dreams film exhibit, which opened the Disney California Adventure Park.

Kageyama received various awards later in his career, including the Ray Creevy Award at East West Players 39th Anniversary Awards, the Community Treasures Award by the Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California, and the Nisei Week Inspiration Award, having been closely involved in various Nisei Week celebrations since 2003.

For the past ten years, he has volunteered as a part-time docent at the Japanese-American National Museum, where he initiated a storytelling program for children. Last month, he was honored at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Autumn Festival.

Kageyama is survived by his husband, Ken White.  A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, January 12, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm at Nishi Hongwanji, 815 E. 1st Street, in Los Angeles.

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