EWP Names Lily Tung Crystal as New Artistic Director

EWP Names Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins

EWP Names Lily TUng Crystal 2May 15, 2024, Los Angeles, CA | Lily Tung Crystal will become the next Artistic Director of East West Players (EWP), one of the nation’s oldest theaters of color and the largest producer of Asian American theatrical works. She is joined by Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins as the historic theater company—founded in 1965—implements a co-leadership model in anticipation of its 60th Anniversary Season.
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“The East West Players Board is excited to introduce Lily to the East West Players community and to welcome her back to LA, her first hometown,” shares EWP Board Chair Rose Chan Loui. “The Search Committee was gratified to see how many qualified candidates applied for the artistic director position, as it demonstrated how much progress we have made as a community in developing AAPI talent. We were particularly pleased to see the number of outstanding Asian American women among the applicants. Out of this impressive field of candidates, Lily stood out for her impressive portfolio of artistic work, her cohesive vision for EWP, and her strong leadership and management skills. We know she will be greatly missed by Theater Mu and the Minnesota community, but we are thrilled for EWP to be her new artistic home.”

Lily Tung Crystal will become East West Players’ fifth artistic director, succeeding Snehal Desai who departed the company in summer of 2023 to become the Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group. She returns to her hometown of Los Angeles and joins East West Players after five years serving as the Artistic Director for Theater Mu, an organization based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with the mission of producing great performances born of arts, equity, and justice from the heart of the Asian American experience.

EWP Names Lily TUng Crystal

Eugene J. Hutchins

“I’m humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to lead the nation’s largest Asian American theater company and longest-running theater of color,” says Tung Crystal. “My life’s work has centered on the intersection of art and social justice; increasing representation of Asian American and other marginalized artists on stage, and in TV and film; and telling more Asian American stories. I’m looking forward to working with East West Players’ Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins and its talented, committed, and welcoming staff, board, and artists to continue that work nationally in collaboration with artists and organizations across the country, including Theater Mu.”

Tung Crystal continues, “I’m grateful to both East West Players and Theater Mu for believing in me. This is a bittersweet moment because of my deep love for Mu and the Minnesotan theater and Asian American communities. My heart is both happy and breaking. Mu has allowed me to do this work in a deep and joyful way with a group of truly incredible staff, board, theater makers, and supporters. I’m thankful to them for giving me such a significant artistic and spiritual home.”

Tung Crystal arrived at Theater Mu after co-founding and leading Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company in the Bay Area. During her tenure at Mu, the company was named a Regional Cultural Treasure by the Ford and McKnight Foundations, doubled the size of its staff, and doubled its budget from $650,000 to $1.3 million. Tung Crystal also led the revitalization of the Mu Training Institute, created Mu’s fellowship program to better invest in the next generation of BIPOC artists, and provided a space for new playwright cohorts. Her visionary leadership made an impact nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of shuttering Theater Mu’s doors during the lockdown, she opened them wider, producing at least three virtual events each week from late March through May 2020. She also directed Susan Soon He Stanton’s Today Is My Birthday (2021), produced with support from East West Players, which received attention from outlets such as The New York Times for its innovative live stream coordination.

Tung Crystal brings her expansive work as an accomplished director, actor, and artist to East West Players. In addition to acting on Minneapolis, San Francisco, and New York stages, Tung Crystal has directed Mu mainstage productions, including Jihae Park’s peerless (2019), Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band (2022, co-produced with the Jungle Theater), and the world premieres of Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay’s The Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior & Cannibals (2023) and Jessica Huang and Jacinth Greywoode’s musical Blended 和 (Harmony): The Kim Loo Sisters (2024), which is now running through May 26, 2024. She also directed an award-winning production of Stephen Karam’s The Humans (2022, Park Square Theatre), featuring a transracial Asian American adoptee family. For her directing work in San Francisco, she was thrice-named a Theatre Bay Area Award finalist for outstanding direction.

Sharing her insight on the future of East West Players, Tung Crystal says, “My vision for East West Players is to serve our communities, both locally and nationally, and fully represent the Asian American diaspora in the narratives we tell, from Southwest and South Asian to Southeast and East Asian American stories. We must also work intersectionally with other marginalized groups including queer or disabled communities, other communities of color, as well as women and non-binary artists. It’s our responsibility to nurture the next generation of Asian American artists, both onstage and backstage. Additionally, with the vibrant multidisciplinary fabric of the arts in Los Angeles, my vision is for East West Players to explore the ways we can integrate film and video with theater. Personally, I’m also excited to continue my work as a performer at an institution founded by such trailblazing actors as Mako, Beulah Quo, and James Hong.”

The artistic future of East West Players will be supported with the implementation of a refined co-leadership model. Eugene J. Hutchins, named late last year as EWP’s Managing Director, is the organization’s first managing director in 18 years.

“We conducted a nationwide search for the managing director position and retained Glick Davis to conduct the search,” shares EWP Vice Chair Dr. Nayan Shah.

“The Board sought an experienced, collaborative, and strategically oriented leader with a track record of financial and operational management and building sustainable organizations. Eugene brings 25 years of experience in theater and performing arts management to EWP. We are excited by his collaborative, artist-centered approach to co-leading EWP with our new Artistic Director Lily Tung Crystal.”

Hutchins’ multifaceted nationwide career encompasses opera, theater, the choral arts, and dance, as well as a background that includes directing, choreographing, producing, and stage managing in spaces from intimate black box spaces to large scale performing arts centers to site-specific works. Hutchins draws from his previous experiences working as a managing director for Theatre West and Barak Ballet.

EWP Managing Director Eugene Hutchins says, “I am thrilled to be named East West Players’ new Managing Director at this extraordinary time on the eve of our 60th season. I remember with fondness attending EWP’s productions as a college student at UCLA. I look forward to partnering with our new Artistic Director, Lily Tung Crystal, and engaging all our stakeholders, including our patrons, supporters, and partners, as we work together to advance our mission of elevating the Asian American experience on stage and in our communities.”

Lily Tung Crystal and Eugene J. Hutchins will lead the historic organization into its 60th Anniversary Season, set to begin in 2025.

About East West Players

East West Players (EWP) is one of the nation’s longest-running theaters of color and the largest producer of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) creative work. Since its founding in 1965, it has produced more than 230 shows and has received regional and national accolades, including being honored as one of America’s Cultural Treasures by the Ford Foundation. EWP leads the Asian American theater movement, using its platform to advocate for comprehensive and intersectional diversity, equity, and inclusion practices through world-class theater. EWP invests in the future of Asian American artists by offering career development classes for both seasoned and emerging artists, as well as its arts education programs. To learn more, visit eastwestplayers.org.

About Theater Mu

Theater Mu (pronounced MOO) is one of the largest Asian American theater companies in the nation and the largest in the Midwest. Founded in 1992, Mu tells stories from the heart of the Asian American experience, and celebrates and empowers the Asian American community through mainstage productions, emerging artist support, and educational outreach programs. Theater Mu is a member of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists, as well as a member of the Twin Cities Theatres of Color Coalition, proudly standing alongside New Native Theatre, Pangea World Theater, Penumbra Theatre, and Teatro Del Pueblo. To learn more, visit theatermu.org.


East West Players is supported in part by the Ford Foundation, Perenchio Foundation, Aratani Foundation, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and Dwight Stuart Youth Fund.


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