Asians in Theatre

By Sue Van Phan

Theatre is one of the live entertainment places that people enjoy going to. Whether it’s for the  story or the casts, there is something interesting that captivates people’s attention. Despite the  fact, that if people realize it or not, there is not much diversity of races in theatre, especially of  Asians or Asian Americans.  

Thinking back one of the first auditions that I ever went to, it was at Citi Performing Arts Center,  which is now known as the Boch Center. I auditioned for one of their summer teen programs  called, Celebrate High School Musical Sing Out Loud. Considering the fact that it was my first  audition, I was super nervous during the day of the audition. When it was my turn to head into  the audition room I was greeted by two lovely staff members named Anthony and Nick. I’m sure  they could already tell I was nervous, but they kept their friendly smiles on as they told me to  introduce myself and the piece that I would be doing.  

As I finished my audition, I politely thanked them and walked out. To be honest, I was definitely  relieved that it was over, but at the same time I knew I didn’t give it my best. Although I felt that  I didn’t do well at the audition, I ended up getting a call from the program saying that I was  accepted. I was beyond happy because theatre is what I really wanted to do. I’m glad that  Anthony and Nick saw potential in me and gave me a chance in the program. Throughout the  program, there were only two Asians Americans, me and another girl named Jessica. At first, I  felt really left out due to the fact that I didn’t see much of myself in the group. As time went on, I  didn’t feel left out anymore because we grew into a strong team that encouraged and pushed each  other to do our best. I guess that’s one of the special moments that I’ve never experienced before.  

Through all the auditions I’ve been to, I’ve realized that there are barely any Asian or Asian  American casting directors or staff members present during the auditions. As stated in an online  post from Center Theatre Group, “One suggestion was not only implementing nontraditional  casting…but also ensuring the creative team behind the production is as diverse as the  cast” (Center Theatre Group). Having nontraditional casting should not be the only change that  theatre should consider making. They should also be ensuring that the creative team that works  behind the scenes are also given the same consideration. To me, whenever I think of theatre,  diversity is what pops up in my mind. That is because having a diverse creative team behind the  scenes is just as important as having diverse casts in a play. That is because each unique  individual contributing to theatre has their own unique perspective and ideas that are different  from one another, but at the same time can also be interconnected with one another.  

If there is diversity on both ends of the creative process – behind the production as well as the  casts in a play – then theatre will be much more exciting than what is it now. The fact that there is  not much diversity in theatre may be because people might not know about the events or casting  that is going on in the theatre world. That is why people in the theatre world have to make “sure  that the work actually stays in there and that [companies] get responsible for doing their outreach 

and the work that they should be doing” (Esther Chae, a Korean American actress). In other  words, that means theatre companies have to really do their jobs in term of outreach to a variety  of places and organizations for people to be aware of the amazing opportunities in theatre. If  theatre companies really put their best efforts into outreach then I’m sure there will be diversity  in the theatre world.  

After all, not many people know much about the theatre world unless you’re lucky enough to  have great connections with people that are part of theatre organizations. If not, then we have to  take matters in our hands to research for opportunities or blaze new trails on our own. I hope that  in the near future theatre companies will be diversifying on both the creative teams behind the  production and the visible, front end of the team. Theatre can be a magical place if there is more  racial diversity.