OUR STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Judge Ernest Hiroshige
APAFT is very committed to the goal of more diversity in terms of color, gender, and sexual preference in all aspects of the theater – in performers, writers, productions, directors, producers and staff. APAFT also believes that the extent that main stage theaters have failed to cast Asian Pacific American (APA) theater artists to appear on their stages is especially egregious and deserves a separate emphasis and discussion.
APAFT’s Mission Statement commits our organization to encouraging and to enable the casting of Asian Pacific actors, vocalists, musicians, dancers and other performers to play characters on the main stages of our region — like the Ahmanson, Mark Taper, Douglas, Geffen, Pasadena Playhouse, Pantages, and South Coast Rep stages — to play “American” parts in the American theater.
APAFT’s argument is simple, if it’s an “American” play with “American” characters, Asian Pacific American actors and performers are Americans! APA actors should not be considered only for parts as foreigners, tourists, or spies from foreign countries. As Americans, we also have APA stories written by APA writers that should be produced on these main stages.
Our estimates are that less than .04 of a percent of APA actors are cast to play any parts in main stage productions. Predictably main stage theaters fail to keep records or statistics on this important issue. To rectify this disparate situation, main stages should be compelled to maintain accurate records of their casting of characters on the main stages in all relevant diversity categories, including how many APA actors are cast to appear on these stages.
"How is it that Asian American actors are so visible playing American consumers on [these] national TV commercials when they cannot be cast to play American characters in American plays on the main stages of LA County? Have Asian Americans suddenly become the most “popular” Americans or did Madison Avenue discover that Asian American consumers are the most important fastest growing group interested in purchasing America’s consumer goods."
These stark estimates pale in comparison on how Madison Avenue has now cast Asian American actors in a very high percentage of their national TV ads for companies like Progressive Insurance, AT&T. Verizon, Wendy Burgers, Time Warner Cable, stock market advisory companies and for other higher end or high tech type of products.
How is it that Asian American actors are so visible playing American consumers on these national TV commercials when they cannot be cast to play American characters in American plays on the main stages of LA County? Have Asian Americans suddenly become the most “popular” Americans or did Madison Avenue discover that Asian American consumers are the most important fastest growing group interested in purchasing America’s consumer goods.
In 2012 and 2015, the think tank Nielsen Company issued two reports which announced to the Madison Avenue advertising agencies that Neilson had discovered a very important fact that should affect the focus and direction of the national ads of these major companies in the US. Asian Americans were suddenly discovered to be the fastest growing group in the US and the most affluent, highly educated, and very savvy high tech people and that other groups viewed Asian Americans as a group that was well respected due to their education, wealth, and high tech knowledge and that if Asian Americans bought any products other Americans would follow their lead.
Madison Avenue decided that Asian Americans due to their positive and dominant consumer traits should be featured as consumers in the national advertising campaigns of many companies. Asian Americans now appear with great frequency in national TV commercials. This is stunning, because by contrast, main stage theaters still relegate Asian Americans to less than 1% of the characters that are cast for any plays on their stages.
The 2015 Nielsen Report states: “Though the Asian-American represents just 6% of the US population, its relative affluence, power, and cultural influence make understanding and marketing to the Asian-American community in media, entertainment and other services in a compelling and authentic fashion critical for any provider of consumer goods, media, entertainment, and other services.”
Between 2000 and 2010, LA County’s Asian American population grew 20%, significantly faster than any other racial group; in comparison, Latinos grew 11% during the same period.
The main stage theaters have apparently not got this message about the importance of the Asian American consumers and have not realized the importance of Asian Americans in the main stages efforts to reach out and attract this new Asian American audience to the theater. Main Stage management must ask themselves – how do we attract this new audience to buy season tickets and single performance tickets to our theater? As Madison Avenue has wisely learned —will more Asian American presence at the main stage theaters in terms of actors, musicians, other performers, playwrights, directors, producers and staff attract a new Asian Pacific American audience? The answer is “of course”!
How can the LA Commission on Diversity in the Arts influence and persuade the management of the main stages to make vital changes in their operations re diversity; APA Friends of the Theater believe that:
Annual funding of the LA County main-stage theaters should be conditioned upon a showing that these theaters have moved positively to demonstrate there is more diversity(as defined by this Commission);
Each theater must keep records of what diversity efforts or programs they have created to achieve diversity
The Commission should require that statistics and data be maintained by these theaters as to how many diverse actors, performers, directors, playwrights, and productions have appeared on their stages on an annual basis.
The Commission should set up goals in diversity for these theaters in the above listed categories of theater artists, staff and productions that are to appear on their stages in the future.
The Commission should gather and evaluate this data and determine whether funding should be lessened to these theaters in the future if goals of diversity are not met.