East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest running professional theatre of color and the largest producer of Asian American artistic work, will lead a discussion on race politics in the American theatre on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm PDT/5:00 pm EDT at East West Players David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo Los Angeles.
This past July, the La Jolla Playhouse (LJP) set off a firestorm when it presented a workshop production of a play entitled “The Nightingale” – set in a mythical China with several Chinese characters including the Emperor – the mixed cast consisted of several white males, no Asian American males and only two Asian Americans in a cast of twelve.
“Given the relative paucity of roles for Asian Americans in American theatre, this self-described ‘colorblind casting’ generated outrage among Asian American actors and instigated lively debate in the blogosphere, social media, mainstream press and a forum hosted by LJP,” said Tim Dang, producing artistic director of East West Players. “Asian American perspectives were aired, apologies issued but the conversations have continued. Kudos to Chris Ashley, artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse, for taking the responsibility to address this complex issue in words and deed: LJP has cast two Asian Americans in a critically acclaimed production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and cast Asian Americans in a world premiere musical, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
“We want to continue the dialogue, but to pivot to the issue of how all theaters can provide more opportunities for Asian Americans. And, where better to host this frank discussion than at East West Players, the home of Asian American theatre,” Dang explained.
The panel will include the artistic directors of four of the leading theaters in Southern California: Christopher Ashley (La Jolla Playhouse), Sheldon Epps (Pasadena Playhouse), Marc Masterson (South Coast Repertory), and Michael Ritchie (Center Theatre Group). The discussion will be moderated by Linda Oku, (corporate diversity consultant for Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations).
The forum will focus on issues of inclusion: How can Asian American talent (writers, directors, designers, performers) be more visible/participatory in the American Theatre process? What is the role of artistic vision in a community of changing demographics? How can we propel a nationwide movement to advance greater diversity in the American Theatre? What is the strategy we can walk away with after this discussion?
In order to achieve a balance of theatre leaders, Asian American community and business leaders, Asian American artists, patrons of the arts, academics, and Southern California funders, this gathering is by invitation only, although a very limited number of seats are available to the general public. Plans are being investigated on streaming the event to interested audiences across the country.
“We’ve got to fight for change. Sometimes it takes pain to see the change happen. Now is the time to demand change from the power structures of mainstream theatre and media. There is great momentum for Asian American visibility on Southern California stages with the musical Allegiance playing at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Chinglish heading to South Coast Repertory, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Artists At Play, Slice at Metamorphosis Theatre Company, Flipzoids by PAE LIVE at LATC and Tea, With Music opening at East West Players in November.”
“It is our hope that dialogue with Southern California theatre leaders will generate further change regionally, as well as to inspire the rest of the country to change the face of American theatre. It is also our intention that this be the first in a series of forums across the country at other major theatres,” said Dang.
The face of America has changed. It’s time for the face of American Theatre to change as well.