Ep. 93: Racism and AAPI Representation in Theatre

Last week, an incident in theater happened wherein Jully Lee, an actress nominated for an Ovation Award for her performance in the East West Players production of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, became the focus of a firestorm. The presenter of the award not only mispronounced Lee’s name, but in addition, her cast mate’s image was flashed on the screen in place of Lee’s when the category announced. East West Players quickly issued a statement and revoked their membership in the LA Stage Alliance, the organization that runs the Ovation Awards. Two dozen other theaters followed suit and LA Stage Alliance issued an apology and promised to do better.

Actor, singer, teaching artist, and activist Thao Nguyen spoke to me about the very issue of AAPI representation on stage and racism in the theater. Listen to our conversation on this episode of the Beltline to Broadway podcast.

You can also catch Thao on the most recent episode of Theater on Racist Negativity (TORN) with Juan Isler.

About the Guest

Thao Nguyen is an Actor/Singer who is comfortable on both the operatic and musical theatre stage. Nguyen is acclaimed by critics for his “velvety baritone and his ease and grace on stage.” Most recently: Off-Broadway, The English world premiere of Tropical Angels with Musical Theatre Factory and the Taipei Cultural Center in Taiwan. As a champion of new music in the classical world, Nguyen was delighted to be a part of the evolution of opera in this first-of-its-kind “Zoom Opera” Fortune’s Children by David Wolfson with Hartford Opera Theater. He is likewise thrilled to be invited back to rejoin the cast in its sequel, Changing Fortunes, which is now streaming on BroadwayOnDemand. Noted musical theatre roles include Bobby (COMPANY), Thuy (MISS SAIGON), and Donkey in the multi-Broadway World Award-winning production of SHREK. As an in-demand vocalist, Nguyen can frequently be seen on stage as a soloist in symphony concerts and as a guest artist in pop concerts. Also active in Film and TV, Nguyen can be seen in the indie short Just a Body, Unmasked and the upcoming 2022 feature film NEMESIS ETERNA, directed by award winning director Stephen Van Vuuren. Nguyen is represented by The Brock Agency for Film/TV/Commercial.  A graduate of UNC School of the Arts, Nguyen is currently based in Winston Salem, NC where he maintains a private voice studio. You can follow Thao on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @thetaoofThao and www.thaotnguyen.com for further information.

AAPI Representation Links & Resources (Mentioned in this Episode)

Beltline to Broadway is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of RDU on Stage must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Make an Online Donation to Beltline to Broadway now.

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