Over two dozen Los Angeles-based theatres have followed East West Players in withdrawing their membership from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance after multiple representational errors took place during the group’s 2021 Ovation Awards March 30. Among those that have issued statements in solidarity with the Asian-American theatre company, affirming their decision to leave LASA as well, are Center Theatre Group, Deaf West Theatre, Geffen Playhouse, and Pasadena Playhouse.
One issue brought forth arose from a lack of inclusion due to an Ovation Awards rule that states only one theatre per production can be recognized. East West Players was not named during the awards, despite being a co-producer on a number of shows nominated. Among them were The Great Leap at Pasadena Playhouse and Hannah And The Dread Gazebo at the Fountain Theatre. (These co-productions are among EWP's range of programming, which also includes works at its 240-seat David Henry Hwang Theatre in the Union Center for the Arts.)
Separately, Hannah And The Dread Gazebo star Jully Lee’s name was mispronounced, and the organization used a photo of someone who was not Lee during the listing of nominees in her category. LASA issued an apology on social media the same night of the ceremony.
East West Players Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai then released a statement March 31, using #LeavingLASA to encourage support across social media.
“You have stood behind an embarrassingly outdated policy of only recognizing one theatre per production—a patently false assertion and an exclusionary situation that you have set up,” the statement reads. “Every time East West Players co-produces in an effort to bring Asian-American actors more visibility in L.A. theatres, only the other, predominantly white organization is listed and uplifted. This is what erasure of our work and our community looks like. To the Ovation Awards and LA Stage Alliance we do not exist, nor does our artistic voice matter. Our craft and our artistic community are secondary to the predominantly white institutions and can swiftly be ignored and forgotten.”
The full statement, which also addresses the mispronouncing and misidentifying of Lee, here.
LASA subsequently issued a four-pronged action plan, announcing intentions to create a task force, an advisory board, and an operations plan that will ensure equitable and diverse acknowledgment of the work done by theatres in the alliance. No changes to the awards ceremony were announced.
The calls for equality surrounding Asian representation on stage come after months of rising hate crimes against the community at large across America and a demonstrable lack of response by onlookers and public officials to overcome the violence.