Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality
“To further cultural understanding between the East and West by employing the dual Oriental and American heritages of the East-West Players.”
That was the statement of purpose of Los Angeles based theater group, East West Players when they formed over three decades ago. Known as the premiere Asian American theater organization, they not only give Asian and Pacific Americans opportunities that they might not otherwise find, but they also involved heavily in numerous workshops to help young actors hone their skills through numerous art education programs.
East West Players was formed in 1965 with nine members that included well known and respected actors such as Mako and James Hong. At the time, it was a way for them to preform and cope with discrimination that many Asian American actors had to face on a day to day basis as well as in the professional arena of stage and film. From those beginnings, it has blossomed to a theater company that works with over six hundred people annually and who’s members have gone on to Oscar and Tony winning careers and whos alumni includes such names as Pat Morita, George Takei, John Cho, Dante Basco, Amy Hill, Alec Mapa and Freda Foh Shen.
Bridging the divide is the goal of the EWP and they do this by presenting performances that tell stories of the Asian Pacific experience. To accomplish this they’ve put on productions of theater staples such as Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd, original shows such as Christmas in Camp II (a show conceptualized by Mako and written by Dom Magwili, Mako and Keone Young) and adaption of traditional Asian Pacific stories and theater traditions like Ernest Harada’s Monkey and Karen Yamashita’s O-Men: An American Kabuki. With productions that range from drama to comedy and a catalog of shows that has both American classics as well as continually adapting new material, the EWP has an audience that consists not only of Asian Americans, but also a growing number of non Asians who now make up close to half of their audience. This in itself is a testament not only to the talent that the EWP develops and fosters, but also to the stories that they tell.
Which East West Players alumni have starred on Avatar: The Last Airbender? Check out our list!
To learn more about Mako, click here to read Racebending.com’s feature article.
Read our interview with East West Player’s current Artistic Director, Tim Dang.