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East West Players Calls on the American Theatre to Increase Diversity

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work and the longest-running professional theater of color in the country, is leading a “call to action” to the American Theatre demanding equity, diversity and inclusion affecting artistic and production personnel as well as programming for the communities they serve.

“The 51% Preparedness Plan for the American Theatre” is a vision statement authored by Tim Dang, EWP’s Producing Artistic Director, in response to the lack of diversity in theater. This plan is part of a larger effort by East West Players entitled “2042: See Change” to build a coalition of theatres and allies in preparing the American Theatre for 2042 when people of color are projected to become the majority of the population, according to the US Census in reports by the New York Times and Council of Urban Professionals.

“2042: See Change” is East West Players’ own diversity initiative, which recently concluded a submission process for a playwriting competition encouraging new work that reflects the dramatically changing American or transnational landscape. Other strategic efforts will be rolling out through the year, the 50th Anniversary of East West Players.

“The 51% Preparedness Plan for the American Theatre” was created as a platform for East West Players while attending the 2014 Theatre Communications Group National Conference in San Diego. Read more>>

Press Release (PDF)

51% Preparedness Plan

A 2042: See Change vision statement promoted by East West Players, authored by Tim Dang (Producing Artistic Director)

The Proposal
Commit to a goal, over the course of the next 5 years (to 2020), of reaching at least one of the following levels:

  • 51% of your organization’s artists and production personnel (combined) will be PEOPLE OF COLOR; or
  • 51% of your organization’s artists and production personnel (combined) will be WOMEN; or
  • 51% of your organization’s artists and production personnel (combined) will be UNDER 35 years of age.

“Artists” shall include performers, playwrights, directors, designers, musicians, and artistic staff such as artistic directors, literary managers, associate artistic directors, and artistic associates. “Production personnel” shall include stage managers, carpenters, electricians and running crew.

Organizations that do not achieve any one of the above levels should not be able to use the word “diverse” in describing their programming.

All funders – government, foundation, corporate, and individuals – should consider funding only those theaters that have achieved at least one of the levels of the 51% Preparedness Plan for the American Theatre. Read more>>

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“Chess” (2013). Photo by Michael Lamont.

FAQ

  1. Does the plan constitute or call for unlawful “quotas?”
  2. In entertainment generally, isn’t there more likely to be age discrimination against older artists and production personnel, than younger folks?
  3. When creating more diversity and inclusion in our organizations, does this include the board and other leadership—not just in the production departments?
  4. What does it mean to be a diverse organization? Who gets to claim that distinction?
  5. I really love theater and all I care about is that the story is a great story with great writing and great performances. I don’t care about the color of the actor. It will move me no matter what. It doesn’t matter to me if there is not an actor of color onstage.
  6. Is it a business liability to hire with diversity in mind at your organization?
  7. What about bias or blindspots?
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“A Nice Indian Boy” (2014). Photo by Michael Lamont.

“2042: See Change” Playwriting Competition

It is estimated that by 2042, people of color will make up a majority of the United States population.* With this shift in demographics, the face of America will look and feel different.

In Fall 2014, East West Players sought submissions of unproduced new works that explore this new reality and represent and reflect the future of the American landscape.

Subject matter included biracial or multiracial identity; multicultural experiences; international/transnational connections to America; conflict and collaboration between cultures; American stories with Asian or Asian-American characters in leading roles; or ethnic-specific themes about Asian culture in the United States.

Winners for the “2042: See Change” Playwriting Competition will be announced in June 2015.

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“Krunk Fu Battle Battle” (2011). Photo by Michael Lamont.