Rodney Kageyama, an Asian American community icon, activist and actor, died Dec. 9, according to multiple media sources. He was 77.
Kageyama was best known for his roles in the films “Gung Ho,” “Karate Kid IV” and “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes”; for being a visible Asian American community champion for the arts, in particular as an emcee; and for his longtime work with the Los Angeles-based East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running theater of color, where he was an actor, costume designer and director.
His career began in San Francisco in 1965, when he became an original member of the Asian American Theater Company. There, he performed in productions like “Year of the Dragon” and “Yellow is My Favorite Color.” He moved to Los Angeles in 1979. His notable works with EWP included costume design for “Rashomon” and acting in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
In a Facebook post, EWP wrote that it will “miss his wry, quick-witted humor and his warm spirit.” Kageyama, EWP said, was “a community leader and champion with an indomitable spirit. He will be missed.”
According to the Rafu Shimpo, he was set to appear in a local production, “A Little Tokyo Christmas,” which kicked off this past weekend.
Kageyama’s honors included EWP’s Ray Creevy Award, for his volunteer service; the Community Treasures Award by the Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California; and the Nisei Week Inspiration Award.
Kageyama is survived by his husband Kenny White.