Many people have memories of Jim Nakamoto, whether from his long tenure as a teacher or his years directing on theatrical stages, in California as well as Hawaii.

Let’s share our stories here!



13 thoughts on “Dedication

  1. My dear Mr. Nak……Thank you for always being there when I needed a father figure in my life during those high school years. Thank you for helping me believe in myself. Thank you for telling me I was worth more than that. You truly helped me through many tough times. I wish I had been able to introduce you to my husband and daughter. I wanted you to see how blessed my life turned out. You would have been proud. I’m sure you are smiling down at me now though. Sincerely and with much love and affection, Cindy Hayes Grimsley (class of 1978)

  2. Aloha Mr. Nak ~ What an amazing man you were! As one of your drama students and MTG cast member, your patience, humor and encouragement…and scoldings to ALL of us!…helped me through a tough period in my life, teen years! Drama literally saved me from all the ‘drama’ that surrounded my life back then. As a naive teen trying to find her way in life, you brought out the best in me, believed in me. Creative criticism was welcomed as it only made me a better person. Though I was mainly a dancer in the chorus line, I loved every minute of being on that stage at MHS! My best high school memories are of MTG and you! Unfortunately, ‘life’ steered me away from theater after high school. But I’ll always remember you and the wonderful cast members I was so fortunate to work, act and dance along side with. Thank you is not enough. You will live in our hearts and minds forever. With Heartfelt Aloha ~ GiGi Wong-Monaco, MHS ’77, MTG ’76-77.

  3. When doing “Tanuki” for HTY in 1976, I was struggling with doing three shows a day. It wasn’t long before on-stage pranks started happening… improvising, breaking-character and trying to make other actors laugh during a scene. Very inappropriate to say the least! Needless to say, this brought the quiet wrath of our stage manager and a stern lecture… but I was 17, quite rebellious, struggling with the repetition and didn’t really take the scolding to heart.

    Then along comes Mr. Nak with a different approach…

    He pulls me aside gently and tells me how the challenge of doing multiple shows is how an actor finds his voice. “This is the magic of the stage” he says; and what a tragedy if we let an opportunity like this to go by. Unlike life, we get to “do over” scenes, improve them, find deeper meaning in them and live out previously lost opportunities.

    (Mind you… he is telling me this while I am in costume dressed as a rodent)

    Morale of the story… this “rodent” was quite affected by the lesson from the master. For the rest of the run, there were no more pranks and I stayed true to the script.

    After all these years, to this day I am still trying to stay true to the script… the challenge of living multiple days over and over again, trying to improve on each one, finding deeper meaning and live out previously lost opportunities.

    …a lesson never forgotten

  4. I never imagined that a day would finally come when Mr. Nak would no longer be in my world.

    Never, ever.

    If I could have given him some years off of my life’s allotment, so that we could exit stage right together, I would have gladly done it in a heartbeat.

    Our motley crew of high school drama queen misfits were more than just students to him, we where his children whom he taught, counseled, nurtured, scolded, and above all else loved without hesitation.

    Mr. Nak’s work week started on Monday, and never seemed to end. When we were hungry, he fed us, when our parent(s) couldn’t or wouldn’t pick us up, he would drive us home, and when we were failing in class, he would go and talk to our other teachers to find out what we would need to do to bring our grades up to speed.

    There is so much more I’d like to say about this wonderful and brilliant man, but my eyes are so filled with tears right now that I cannot continue to type much further.

    As I sat with him during his final days in the hospital, I apologized for not being a better son, and he said “That’s okay, I just want to know you are happy.” I continued to read from “Romeo and Juliet” to him, one of the very first plays I went to see at McKinley High School with my Washington Intermediate School English class.

    Thank you Mr. Nak, thank you for being such a great dad to me.

    I miss you so much it hurts.

  5. Dear Mr. Nak,
    I donʻt really know how I ended up in the drama department. But I thank God that I did. The creativity of one self using only one self, speaking. singing. dancing, was the beginning of so many possibilities in life.
    You also taught me to care and show love to others. I remember you coming to my momʻs restaurant where I had to work every night and sometimes even at lunchtime ( while going to school) to reach out to my parents. To teach THEM to be good parents.
    You gave me confidence, you gave me courage, you made me fearless. That was the source of what I now have in my life.
    Every time I screwed up or came to a dead end, the foundation you built in me kept me going.
    You are truly the example of what all teacher should be. You not only teach the class, you teach the person, you teach the future.
    Mahalo Kumu, You are my light and I hope I can be like you to others in my life.

    June ( junko ) Matsumoto ( wong)

  6. There’s a saying, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

    Mr. Nak, for many of us, you were our world, as we struggled through our awkward teen years and finding our way through life. McKinley Theatre Group provided a “home away from home” for us to explore other facets of ourselves that may otherwise have gone untapped. You provided that safe haven for us to be ourselves… discover ourselves…
    to dream… to live… to be happy.

    Thank you, Mr. Nak, for giving us the MTG experience… what an incredible, precious gift that will live in us forever. It’s an honor to finally be able to celebrate YOU, together with my MTG brothers and sisters! With much love and aloha ~ Pat

  7. Dear Mr. Nak,
    I was originally in the ensemble of MHS’s Sophomore class play…I always had the love to sing but did not have the courage. I somehow got a solo singing “A Time For Us” from the film Romeo and Juliet, (This was Junko Matsumoto Wong’s favorite song at the time so I somehow think she had something to do with this)…I recall rehearsing it in your class room and shaking like a leaf and tears flowing out of my eyes. Thank you for talking to me and giving me confidence. That day was a break through for me. I was not part of the MTG students but was in the ensemble and dancer in the Junior and Senior Class plays. I was honored to be part of the MTG ensemble for the McKinley 125th anniversary celebration and see you again. I thank you for your wonderful words of kindness you gave me years after as I pursued a musical theatre “hobby” in Honolulu. I thank you always for your kindness, patience and advice.
    God Bless you, you are missed!
    Jade (Sekiya) Glover

  8. It has been said that one of the greatest gifts we have been given, is the ability to create a memory.

    How wonderful it is to read these tributes as I can echo many of the same emotional sentiments from the postings of my extended McKinley Theatre Group family on this website. Volumes of incredible stories abound from my experiences with the legendary MTG and its sage of the stage, Mr. Nak!

    My very first encounter with an MTG production was, when as a twelve year old walking through McKinley High School, I accidentally stumbled on a rehearsal of “Now” in the auditorium and saw a red lit stage with student actors singing their hearts out to incredible rock rhythms. All I could do was stop, watch in amazement and think to myself, “Wow! These people are having FUN!…even with that teacher wearing his sweater over his shoulders sitting in the audience chairs yelling at them on stage to do everything over and over.” I couldn’t wait to get to high school!
    Little did I know that I would later learn who that teacher was and would hear that same (caring and encouraging) yelling directed at me many times before, during, and after rehearsals… “Memorize your lines already! Lose that script…it’s the dress rehearsal! We open tomorrow! Free yourself from that piece of paper!”

    It was in graduate school when I came across the following Welsh verse that I realized how universally true those words were for me then and still are: “Three things must be united before good can come of them: thinking well, speaking well, acting well. “

    I will always miss my great teacher but I will never forget what he taught.

    Mr. Nak, May Your Memory Be Eternal +

    Achilles Gacis, Ph.D.
    Class of 1978

  9. I am blessed to have been a student of Mr.Nak during my years at Mckinley High School Class of 73. I remember being so fascinated listening and watching Mr.Nak in action whether it was in class or on stage. I was shy back then, but I could feel his energy work inside of me and I wanted so much to perform.

    Mr.Nak had asked that we all take part in his plays. I wanted to so much, but I had to tell him that I couldn’t participate because my single mom needed me to work with her 6 days a week at Kaneda’s Food on School street, which included the weekends. This meant I couldn’t make rehearsals. I don’t know if he was disappointed, but I know I was…

    I still learned a lot from him in class, not only what he expected from us as a student but during the rehearsals and performances from all his cast members. He was generous in giving out compliments but stern when there was too much clowning around. After graduating my baby sister Jocelyn Ginelsa became Mr.Nak’s student. She became someone he could count on on stage and behind the scenes as well busily sewing many of the beautiful costumes. I have heard great complimentary remarks of what a wonderful actress my sister Jocelyn was for the roles that Mr.Nak had picked out for her. Unfortunately I had moved away at the age of 19 so I missed ALL her performances. I had small kine envy because she was able to do what I had wanted to during my time with Mr.Nak.

    Fast forward…16 years ago, my dear class-mate Maurice Cenal contacted me and asked me to be part of this play that Mr.Nak had put together ” Just Once in a Lifetime” . McKinley High School’s auditorium had been closed down for years because it had deteriorated and finally after being newly renovated, Mr.Nakamoto was invited to be a part of the grand unveiling of our beautiful auditorium . Mr.Nak needed actors and singers and dancers from his MTG students to perform. I reminded Maurice that as much as I had wanted to be a part of this great event, that I had never performed on stage and was not part of MTG because I was unable to make rehearsals. Maurice said “hey, you were his student and you learned from him right? And that’s all that mattered”.

    I was nervous, not knowing if he still remembered me, and he did, especially being the older sister of Jocelyn Ginelsa. He hadn’t changed, and it was as if I was back in his class again but this time he gave me the opportunity to climb out of my shell and all that I remembered learning in class came back to me and I not only surprised my family and friends, but I also surprised myself.

    Thank you Mr.Nakamoto, for having confidence in me, believing in me and giving me that “Just Once In a Lifetime” opportunity. You have taught all of us life lessons that we are the best that we can be….

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