East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest running professional theatre of color and the largest creator of Asian Pacific artistic work, announced today that Tim Dang, Producing Artistic Director for the past 22 years, will step down in June 2016 at the end of the organization’s 50th Anniversary celebration. This will give the organization a full year to transition to a new strategic plan and to mentor new leadership for the next chapter of the organization.
“I thought that June 2016 would be the appropriate time to pass the torch to only the fourth artistic director in our 50 year history. It is the culmination of our 50th Anniversary and 5-year strategic plan, and the beginning of a new chapter of EWP,” said Tim Dang. “It will be an incredible opportunity for the next leader to boldly take the theater to new heights.”
During Dang’s tenure of almost 23 years (after 2016), he will have produced almost 100 new works and classics displaying the Asian Pacific experience on the mainstage. Dang also produced and directed 10 Stephen Sondheim musicals in an intimate setting, toured Theatre for Youth locally to schools and community venues, provided artists a safe space to learn and hone their craft, and created a gathering place to engage in dialogue affecting the diverse community in which we live. With the assistance of the Board of Directors, Council of Governors, staff, artists and volunteers, Dang is most proud of three main achievements:
Through a $5.6 million capital campaign, East West Players became one of the first 99-seat black box intimate theatres in Los Angeles to transition to a state-of-the-art mid-sized theatre with a professional union contract for actors, designers, and directors;
East West Players spearheaded the first national Asian American Theatre Conference hosted in Los Angeles, bringing together almost 200 theatre professionals from throughout the country (and internationally). The work continues as the Fifth National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival will take place in October 2016 in Ashland, Oregon hosted by the Consortium of Asian American Theatres and Artists (CAATA) and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and East West Players’ long-term commitment and national efforts to advocate for more opportunities for the expanding Asian Pacific American community, both in front of and behind the scenes and cameras, in film, TV and stage. This culminated in EWP’s “2042 See Change” initiative that includes the “51% Preparedness Plan for the American Theatre”, an aggressive challenge to theatres across the country to create diversity and inclusion policies designed to make seismic advances to address the dramatic demographic shifts that will take place by 2042 when America will be majority minority.
“East West Players is extremely fortunate and grateful that Tim chose to devote over twenty years of his life guiding and nurturing EWP through critical transitions and challenges, molding the Theater into the great institution it is today,” says Robert Kawahara, EWP Board President. “We wish him well as he continues to follow his passions and continues to be a leader and a trailblazer in the arts community. We will deeply miss him as Producing Artistic Director. But we know that we can count on Tim for his support and counsel as EWP moves forward into the next 50 years.”
“That there are so many fine Asian American theater artists today, whether actor, playwright or director, is in large part attributable to Tim Dang’s dedication and leadership as the Producing Artistic Director of the East West Players over the past two decades,” said George Takei, Chair of the EWP Council of Governors. “Despite a legacy of stereotyped roles and yellow-face casting, Tim has created challenging, testing opportunities rarely offered to Asian American artists. His standard of excellence, creative vision and amazing energy has both developed and guided East West Players to become one of the most respected theater companies in America. Bravo to Tim Dang on his over twenty years of service to American theater. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Tim as he begins what promises to be a rich new chapter in a bountifully productive life.”
“I am so thankful for the people I’ve met along this journey including two U.S. Presidents, the Japanese Prime Minister, governors, mayors, politicians, celebrities and so many incredible leaders and community activists,” says Dang. “Closing the season with La Cage Aux Folles next Spring seems quite appropriate as its signature song “The Best of Times” is a fitting description of my tenure here at EWP.”
Longtime staff member Marilyn Tokuda, Arts Education Director for the past 13 years, will also be departing as she is retiring in June 2016.
“With these major transitions taking place, and the need to keep operations moving forward while a national search is being conducted for new artistic leadership, East West Players will be producing three mainstage productions instead of the typical four,” Dang notes. “Fundraising will also be crucial with our ONE NIGHT ONLY benefit on August 15, 2015, our annual end of year campaign, and our 50th Anniversary Gala on April 25, 2016.”
Mainstage productions already announced are Chinglish by David Henry Hwang, Criers for Hire by Giovanni Ortega, and the musical La Cage Aux Folles, book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. La Cage Aux Folles will be Dang’s last directorial nod as EWP’s artistic director to close out East West Players’ first 50 years of operations.