Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

George Takei and Brad Takei will present East West Players Visionary Award to ALLEGIANCE Producers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione on April 25; Takei recounts their first encounter

Tia Carrere, "Wayne's World 1 & 2," "Lilo & Stitch," "Celebrity Apprentice"

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s premier Asian American theatre, celebrates its milestone 50th Anniversary with the Annual Visionary Awards Dinner & Silent Auction on Monday, April 25, 2016 at the Universal Hilton. Proceeds benefit East West Players’ educational and artistic programs.

Grammy Award-winning musician and actress Tia Carrere and renowned martial artist and actor, Mark Dacascos will co-host the evening’s festivities. “I am so excited and honored to share the stage on the occasion of East West Players’ 50th Anniversary Gala with my dear friend Mark Dacascos as well as George & Brad Takei,” remarks Carrere. “It is important to support the good work that East West has done for the Asian American creative community in Los Angeles.”

Mark Dacascos

Mark Dacascos

This Gala is also the final one that Tim Dang will helm as Producing Artistic Director. “I had the pleasure to work with Tia and Mark at the start of their careers and each have an incredible success story as role models that you can make it in this business with hard work and dedication,” said Tim Dang, producing artistic director. “It’ll be great to see them again at the top of their game hosting the gala. As East West Players faces an exciting time of a change with arts education director Marilyn Tokuda and me stepping down at the end of June, I look forward to our next generation of role models.”

Carrere has enjoyed an accomplished career in film, television and music, known for popular classics such as Wayne’s World and Disney’s Lilo and Stich. As a musical artist, she won a Grammy Award for her work with fellow Hawaiian musician Daniel Ho, for original Hawaiian language compositions. Dacascos’ filmography spans almost 40 films, popularly known for his breakout role in the Brazilian martial art action film Only the Strong among many more. He is also known as “Chairman” for Iron Chef America and Australia.

Fresh off his Broadway debut in the groundbreaking musical, George Takei, along with his husband Brad, will present the Visionary Award to Allegiance producers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione.

George Takei and Brad Takei at the opening night party of ‘Allegiance’ at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei and Brad Takei at the opening night party of ‘Allegiance’ at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Vincent Rodriguez_1

Vincent Rodriguez III

Presenting to Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, producers of the CW/CBS hit comedy-drama Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Vincent Rodriguez III, who plays Josh Chan, the Filipino American suburban “ex-boyfriend” whom Rachel Bloom’s character, Rebecca Bunch, follows to West Covina, California.

Veteran actress Jodi Long will present to Tisa Chang, founding artistic director of Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. Long is an accomplished theatre, film and television actress and director. She is President of the Board of Directors of Visual Communications, the first non-profit organization in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of Asian Pacific Americans through the media arts.

Jodi Long

Jodi Long

Hosting the VIP Reception for major sponsors is Reggie Lee, from NBC’s GrimmThe Dark Knight Rises and Fast and the Furious. Lee is also the choreographer for EWP’s upcoming production of La Cage Aux Folles. Actress Amy Hill, who can currently be seen on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, will be on hand to appear during a fundraising moment.

George Takei, Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo. Photo by Lia Chang

George Takei, Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo. Photo by Lia Chang

The 2016 Honorees are:

Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, producers of the groundbreaking musical, Allegiance. Fresh off its run on Broadway, Allegiance welcomed the stage debut of George Takei and also featured Lea Salonga and Telly Leung. Kuo is also the lyricist, composer and playwright of Allegiance, his fourth musical. Thione co-wrote Allegiance with Kuo and Marc Acito.

Lea Salonga, George Takei, Telly Leung , Michael K. Lee and company. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Lea Salonga, George Takei, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and company. Photo by Matthew Murphy

During an interview in December at The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University with Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, George Takei recounts how he met Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo, and attributes the birth of Broadway’s Allegiance to the theater gods.

Edited transcript of interview:

Hwang: I finally got to see Allegiance this weekend. It’s really extraordinary. You guys have done a fantastic job. One of the things that I think is amazing from a dramaturgical standpoint is just a series of impossible choices that these people are faced with. They try to navigate through one impossible choice, then that causes another impossible choice, so that there is constantly this vice that’s closing in. It rips apart families and it’s very moving. Congratulations. I think it’s fantastic.
Takei: The credit goes to three very gifted writers Marc Acito, Lorenzo Thione, who is also the lead producer, and Jay Kuo, who is also the composer/lyricist. I have great admiration for them.

Jay Kuo and Marc Acito at the opening night party of ‘Allegiance’ at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Jay Kuo and Marc Acito at the opening night party of ‘Allegiance’ at Bryant Park Grill in New York on November 8, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Hwang: This project came about happenstancedly.
Takei: I don’t call it happenstance. I call it the theater gods. Brad and I go to the theater regularly, every night sometimes for a whole week. One night we went to see Forbidden Broadway, we’re musical theater fans and a satirical treatment of Broadway musicals is something we find to be a lot of fun too. We were there, it was early, not too many people were seated and we were chit chatting and two guys came in, sat right in front of us and they heard us talking. They heard my voice and one of them turned around and said, “You’re George Takei,” and so we chitchatted. That young man was Jay Kuo, the composer/lyricist, who also is a practicing attorney, a brilliant attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court. He’s a man of many talents. The guy with him was Lorenzo Thione. We chatted with them during the intermission. We went back to our apartment thinking, “Oh those guys are really passionate theater lovers.”

The next night we went to see the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights written by another very gifted theater person, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote Hamilton. We found our seats and we were about to sit down when we noticed two arms waving at us in the same row. We looked over and it was the same two guys waving at me. This time in the very same row. I said to Brad, isn’t that a coincidence, it’s those two same guys. Brad whispered to me, “I think they’re stalking us.”

Then the musical started. It’s a Puerto Rican story which takes place in the Washington Heights area. Near the end of the first act, there’s a bright, very talented daughter who wants to go to college and the father wants to help her get to college, but he can’t. He sings a song “Inutil,” which means useless. It was a powerful, moving song. Somehow, that song made my mind click to a conversation I’d had with my father as a teenager asking him about our incarceration, and he was telling me about being confronted with the loyalty questionnaire and how difficult, how painful it was for him to respond to that questionnaire. Hearing this song, I’m a weeper to begin with, I started cascading tears. And then of course intermission comes and the lights go on, and the two guys come clamoring over to chitchat again and they see me wiping my tears off my face. They asked me what triggered that and I told them. We started talking about internment. And then we had to quit because the next act was going to begin. We went out for drinks after that to talk some more. And then we decided to have dinner the following night and that eventually resulted in our deciding to work on a musical on the internment of Japanese Americans. That was about 8 years ago.

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and More at the Closing Night Party of ALLEGIANCE

Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and George Takei talk about Broadway’s Allegiance at The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University

Tisa Chang

Tisa Chang, Founding Artistic Director of Pan Asian Repertory in New York City. Chang founded Pan Asian Rep in 1977 to increase opportunities for Asian Americans in theatre. Actor, dancer, producer, and director, Chang’s extensive credits include The King and I, Sweet Charity, and Flower Drum Song on Broadway, and the tour of Pacific Overtures.

Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna (Photo: Mark Davis / Getty Images)

Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna (Photo: Mark Davis / Getty Images)

Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, creators of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The hit CW sitcom about a highly successful Manhattan attorney who leaves for California in hopes of finding true love with an old flame. The show follows her adventures, which include embracing her ex-boyfriend’s Filipino family, featuring   Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh, Tess Paras as Jayma, Coryn Mabalot as Jastenity, Amy Hill as Lourdes, and Alberto Isaac as Joseph.

From left: Tess Paras as Jayma, Coryn Mabalot as Jastenity, Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh, Amy Hill as Lourdes, Rachel Bloom as Rebecca, and Alberto Isaac as Joseph. Photo: Tyler Golden/CW

From left: Tess Paras as Jayma, Coryn Mabalot as Jastenity, Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh, Amy Hill as Lourdes, Rachel Bloom as Rebecca, and Alberto Isaac as Joseph in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”. Photo: Tyler Golden/CW

The CW Gives Early Renewals for Next Season to Arrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, iZombie, Jane The Virgin, The Originals, Reign, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and The 100

“It has been a banner year for Asian Pacific Americans in performing arts and entertainment – from the debut of Allegiance on Broadway with a robust run, to a first ever Filipino American family introduced in a television comedy,” says Tim Dang, Producing Artistic Director. “The accomplishments of today are underscored by the pioneering work of leaders such as Tisa Chang, Artistic Producing Director of Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. It is only fitting to honor Tisa, Allegiance producers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s producers Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna as we celebrate EWP’s milestone 50th Anniversary. ”

Current major sponsors (as of April 18) of the gala include: PLATINUM CIRCLE – Arts Consulting Group, CBS Corporation, Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company; SILVER CIRCLE – Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Brad & George Takei, Wells Fargo, Melvin Mar; BRONZE CIRCLE – Tim Dang & Darrel Cummings, HBO, Friends of Leslie Ishii, IW Group, SoCal Gas Company, Harry & Patricia Tom Mar, Randall & Mari Tamura, Sanrio, Inc., Union Bank, Lynn Waggoner; FRIENDS CIRCLE – Albert E. Aubin, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), Samuel H. Bersola, Eric Chan & Cathleen Kozen, John Gong, Roy Ito, David & Carrie Lee, Ed Lew, Daniel Mayeda & Susan Rosales (2), Martie Quan Kawahara (3), Paramount Pictures, Pasadena Playhouse, Frank & Marian Sata, Carmen J. Smith, Laura Takaragawa & Scott Brown, Ken Takemoto (2), Friends of Marilyn Tokuda, Wells Fargo/Pasadena Playhouse.

Award-winning composer Nathan Wang (Beijing Olympics/Shaolin Monks, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Award-winning film The Last Days) will serve as the evening’s Musical Director.

East West Players’ 50th Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner and Silent Auction will be held on Monday, April 25, 2016 at the Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, CA 91608. VIP Reception for table sponsors starts at 5:30pm. No-host reception and silent auction starts at 6pm. The dinner and awards program begins at 7pm.

Individual tickets are $200- $1,500. Full table sponsorship packages are also available. For more information please contact East West Players at (213) 625-7000 or Development Manager Monika Ramnath at mramnath@eastwestplayers.org.

Broadway Vet Gedde Watanabe and MISS SAIGON’s Jon Jon Briones Lead the Cast of East West Players’ Production of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, May 12 – June 26

Jeff Imada, Nahnatchka Khan, Melvin Mar and Paula Madison to be honored at East West Players’ GOLDEN Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner; Parvesh Cheena to host and Fresh Off The Boat’s Randall Park & Constance Wu confirmed to present at the Universal Hilton on April 20, 2015

The CW Gives Early Renewals for Next Season to Arrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, iZombie, Jane The Virgin, The Originals, Reign, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and The 100

Closing Night Party of Encores! 1776 with André De Shields, Santino Fontana, John Larroquette, Nikki Renée Daniels, Bryce Pinkham, Ann Harada at New York City Center

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and More at the Closing Night Party of ALLEGIANCE

ALLEGIANCE Stars Lea Salonga, George Takei, Telly Leung and Katie Rose Clarke at the Performance and CD Signing at Barnes and Noble

Broadway’s ‘Allegiance’ starring George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung, ends run on February 14

Tony Eligibility: ALLEGIANCE’s Lea Salonga and Telly Leung are eligible for Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Broadway’s ‘Allegiance’ to Record Cast Album on Dec. 7 

“Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice” by Lorraine K. Bannai

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and More celebrate opening night of ALLEGIANCE

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and more at the first preview of Broadway’s Allegiance; opens Nov. 8

Photos: Lunch with Tony Winner Lea Salonga and George Takei, Stars of ALLEGIANCE

The Old Globe Production Photos of George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung and Paolo Montalban in World Premiere of Allegiance – A New American Musical

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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