East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color in the country and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, has received a $180,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Fund for National Projects, which provides support to national performing arts organizations and projects to foster continued dynamism and vitality in the fields of contemporary dance, jazz, and theater. The grant is one of seven given to new projects in 2016 for a total of $1,052,006.
The grant will allow EWP to create a series of four Think Tanks held biannually over the next two years, which will convene theatre arts leaders from across the country to discuss issues of leadership, access, equity, and inclusion in people-of-color-led theaters. The Think Tanks will also address how organizations can proactively engage in influencing policy and building strong arts and cultural communities across multiple sectors.
Snehal Desai, EWP’s Artistic Director, said, “The idea for the Think Tanks grew out of EWP’s ‘2042: See Change’ call to action in response to the lack of diversity in theater. According to the U.S. Census, it’s expected that by 2042, people of color are projected to become the majority population. This generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will allow us to build strong alliances with artistic and cultural leaders, and strategize how to develop a theatre ecosystem that is not only inclusive, but also sustainable and equitable.”
The first Think Tank will take place October 6-7, 2016 in Ashland, Oregon, in conjunction with the 2016 National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival (ConFest), held October 1-9, 2016 and organized by the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists (CAATA) in partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The 2016 ConFest is the fifth national convening of Asian American theater artists and professionals.
Tim Dang, EWP’s Artistic Director Emeritus (succeeded by Desai), and Leslie Ishii, EWP’s Diversity Liaison, will lead the organizing efforts for the Think Tanks. Both Dang and Desai are CAATA board members. In addition to convening the first Think Tank, EWP will be presenting an excerpt from “La Cage aux Folles” for Hot Asian Everything: A Seismic Extravaganza and two staged readings at ConFest: “You Mean To Do Me Harm” by Christopher Chen, which explores Chinese and American foreign relations, and “Oskar And The Curiously Colorful Clash” by Matt Ackels and Prince Gomovilas, which addresses the topic of bullying among kids.
EWP is also producing and facilitating panel discussions at ConFest on Asian American artistic directors, union E/D/I/A initiatives, Asian theater outside of the U.S., expanding the classical canon and international connections, new models for commercial theatre, and establishing an Asian American Pacific Islander new play network.
As the nation’s premier Asian American theatre organization, East West Players produces artistic work and educational programs that foster dialogue exploring Asian Pacific Islander (API) experiences. Founded in 1965, at a time when APIs faced limited or no opportunities to see their experiences reflected outside of stereotypical and demeaning caricatures in the American landscape, EWP not only ensures that API stories are told, but works to increase access, inclusion, and representation in the economy.
For more information about East West Players, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.