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Pasadena Playhouse to host forum on diversity in theater

originally posted by The Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2013

Theater leaders in Southern California will convene for a second panel on racial diversity that will serve as a sequel of sorts to last year’s discussion hosted by East West Players in downtown Los Angeles.

The upcoming panel will be held Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pasadena Playhouse. While last year’s event was by invitation only, the upcoming discussion is free and open to the public.

Panelists expected to attend include Michael Ritchie, artistic director of Center Theatre Group; Marc Masterson, artistic director of South Coast Repertory; Sheldon Epps, artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse; Tim Dang, artistic director of East West Players; and Jessica Kubzansky, co-artistic director of the Theatre @ Boston Court.

The 2012 panel was convened in response to a production of the Duncan Sheik musical “The Nightingale” at the La Jolla Playhouse earlier that year. The musical was set in ancient China, but featured a cast that was majority non-Asian.

The La Jolla Playhouse received significant criticism about the casting of the musical from theater professionals around the country and from individuals on social media.

Epps said the December panel is the result of a discussion he had with Dang after last year’s event.

“We felt first and foremost that we should keep the discussion going,” said Epps in an e-mail interview. “Additionally, we thought that speaking directly with and to directors and artistic directors would be a way to implement real change as ultimately those are the people who are in a position to make changes in the casting area, and also in the hiring of freelance directors.”

Michael John Garc├ęs of the Cornerstone Theatre Co. will moderate the December panel. The event is being co-presented by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation.

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