NPN Creation Fund

A Sense of Safety: Makoto Hirano on Assimilation, Fear, and Gun Reform

How safe are Asian Americans? How safe do they feel?

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation co-director Makoto Hirano says The Great American Gunshow began as a feeling: “How safe am I again? Who are these people who own 400 million firearms in the country, and are they trying to harm me?”

With The Great American Gunshow, Team Sunshine will attempt to uncover the humanity behind the great gun control/reform debate. They will hit the road to ask rural and urban gun owners about their motivations for owning firearms, and then will ask Asians and Asian Americans, “How safe do you feel now?” With those responses, they will create a piece that reflects the feelings, desires, questions, curiosities, and fears of the people they interview.

We asked Team Sunshine if we could share these videos from their Creation Fund application last fall. We didn’t know we’d be sharing them in a moment when the Asian American community is asking these questions so urgently.

As Makoto reminded us in an email, “This project is and has been ongoing, and events are just happening to (unfortunately) intersect with it in a higher-profile way. Perhaps putting this post out in the world now can actually make it part of the conversation and action to highlight the complexity of this layered issue. It might even communicate to some that it’s not unique nor just something that will ‘go away.’”

In this video, Makoto Hirano shares his story as a first-generation Japanese American having to address how to keep himself safe, and how these experiences led him to conceive The Great American Gunshow.


“See, all this acquisition of vernaculars and particulars of places and people, it was all in an effort for me to feel a sense of safety in the world—in the United States—in a way that I imagined that white people do.”

In this video, Makoto Hirano describes the three nodes at the core of Gunshow’s inquiry: the hunches, feelings, and statistics that inform the project.

Gunshow  will advance racial and/or cultural justice by engaging in the very basic action of listening, and seeing, and allowing for the recontextualization of our histories and experiences in relationship to one another. This, in my opinion, is where justice work begins.”


Blooper reel. (Warning: this video contains swearing.)



Photo of Makoto Hirano

About the artist

Makoto Hirano is a Philadelphia-based choreographer and theatre artist. His award-winning, original performance projects have been presented nationally in numerous venues and festivals across the nation including Off-Broadway at the National Asian American Theatre Festival (NYC), DanceTruck (Atlanta, GA), Ringling Museum (Sarasota, FL), and FringeArts (Philadelphia, PA). As a freelance collaborating performer, Hirano has originated over 20 roles, with highlights that include projects with Bill Irwin, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, and Thaddeus Phillips/Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental. Hirano is co-founder of art duo Gatto+Hirano as well as Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, where he is a co-producer, performer, administrator, and choreographer (2018 Barrymore-Award nomination for Outstanding Choreography for "¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! OR, WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!"). From 2007-2013 Hirano was a Facilitator with Philly/Baltimore/South Carolina-based professional development program Artists U. A former U.S. Marine, Hirano earned his BFA in dance at Temple University.