East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest running professional theater of color and the largest producer of Asian American artistic work, led a discussion on race politics in the American theater. The purpose of the forum is to find ways for theaters to provide more opportunities for Asian Americans. 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.
The panel included 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 was moderated by Linda Oku, (corporate diversity consultant for Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations).
Actors Sandra Oh and Tamlyn Tomita also participated in the forum program. The forum focused on issues of inclusion: How can Asian American talent (writers, directors, designers, performers) be more visible/participatory in the American Theatere 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 Theater? What is the strategy we can walk away with after this discussion?
The face of America has changed. It’s time for the face of American Theater to change as well.
Other posts of interest:RepresentAsian: The Changing Face of New York Theater, Asian American actors in Hollywood, and Asian American Women in Hollywood and Beyond.
Why Not Asian? Why Asian? : Asian Americans in theater (panel starts at 31:17 mark)