The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (LASA) announced that it would “cease all operations” following the departure of more than 25 of the group’s 150 participating theater companies.
That mass departure followed accusations that LASA showed disrespect to Asian American actress Jully Lee and theater companies representing diverse artists including East West Players and Deaf West Theatre.
Concerns about LASA’s record have come up for several years in regards to the organization’s treatment of theater professionals of color.
26 of of the region’s best-known theater companies have exited the L.A. Stage Alliance after an incident involving East West Players and actress Jully Lee at the Ovation Awards.
Lee, star of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, was nominated for her role–but her name was mispronounced by presenters and the photograph shown on screen was of an entirely different Asian American actor.
Amid the current climate of awareness regarding racism and violence toward AAPI people in the U.S., the slights struck a nerve with viewers of the awards and those who learned about what happened online afterwards.
After East West announced it would be cutting ties with LASA, other companies quickly came out to say they would as well–showing solidarity with East West, and expressing their own concerns about LASA.
East West Players is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious Asian American theater companies. At the awards show, two plays co-produced by the company, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo and The Great Leap, were credited exclusively to East West’s collaborators, Fountain Theatre and the Pasadena Playhouse, respectively.
In response LASA has announced plans to undertake diversity initiatives. However a statement released by the organization described a very different path.
“It is with deep regret that the board of governors has unanimously decided to cease all operations for L.A. Stage Alliance,” the organization wrote. “We’ve had many challenges like many other organizations and at this time we are unable to continue.”
LASA also issued a statement apologizing to “Jully Lee and the AAPI community,” though not mentioning East West Players by name.
“L.A. Stage Alliance takes its dedication to equality and support of its diverse theater community and representations seriously,” the statement reads. “With that in mind, effective immediately, L.A. Stage Alliance will focus on undertaking a visible and transparent transformation so it can be held accountable to the community it serves.”
The statement from LASA also contains a list of what it characterizes as “initial steps,” including the creation of a new, diverse task force that will review and reassess the organization’s mission and activities, establishing a more diverse advisory board to specifically address issues with the Ovation Awards, and create partnerships and programs “for the benefit and equitable treatment of all its members.”