Ron Nakahara (1993)

With Asian American directors, it’s hard to say if there are more opportunities now than before. There hasn’t been enough of a history to tell, it seems to me. The participation of Asian Americans in mainstream theater and entertainment in the U.S. has been limited and a fairly recent development. We are also a numerically smaller minority, so we don’t have the presence that African Americans or Latinos do in the society. As a result, in many quarters, Asian Americans are perceived as being Asians rather than Americans. This may or may not be a conscious thing. But when it comes to choosing a director for a play that is seen as “American,” we are not usually among the first choices.

Plays by Asian Americans have not been done very much in the general theater either. Those that are have more often than not been directed by Caucasians. I don’t object to that. Theater is not real; that’s why you get artists to do it. I don’t mind anyone saying, “That grabs me, I can do that.” I think we underestimate the value of a play’s writing to think that only directors from the same cultural background can understand and stage it.

I’d like to see a more honest exchange about these issues between artistic directors, producers, and artists. The efforts so far have been cosmetic or very limited, more about letting “us” in, instead of opening the theater up. The realities in this country are changing. These issues are not trends or fads, they won’t go away. Rather, they must be addressed continuously with intelligence and passion and by courageous people who keep working and keep growing.

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