Tim Dang - Interview Transcript
Masami Moriya: [00:00:00] You got a second to my questions, but let me go.
Tim Dang: You have a, quite a set up there. What is that a road
it’s a, this is just popping. Like this is a blue Yeti mic.
Tim Dang: oh, okay.
Masami Moriya: They’re pretty good. I like the roads a great, but this is a nice, a deeper sound. Like I have this nice, set up here, but I don’t know we had it and it feels good.
Tim Dang: Right, right.
My, my agent keeps on telling me to, you know, to get like a, an in home system so that I can record, you know, at home. But, you know, I would still rather go to the studio and have the engineers kind of like take care of everything,
you know, now.
Masami Moriya: it’s definitely worth it to go into the studio, but if you have like, you know, doing a voiceover and just closet and you just want to do it, or even for podcasts, and I don’t know how many interviews you’re doing, but a, a a hundred dollar mic for like, just like the sound 20 times better
Tim Dang: Right,
Masami Moriya: get that, that depth in your voice.
Tim Dang: Sure. Sure. Yeah. So actually you’re a tenor, but I’m hearing you as a BA as a base,
Masami Moriya: Yeah. I’ve been practicing my two [00:01:00] boys,
Tim Dang: you know, I, yeah, I, you know, I I’ve had to do a, you know, kind of like a George Takei kind of, kind of imitation sometimes, you know, when they say, you know, can you, can you deepen your voice and, and all that for, for like, you know, animation characters and all that. And they’re always thinking you think George CK, the only thing about, you know, Georgia K you know, is they have to pay a lot of money for Georgia K’s voice.
And, you know, they don’t have to pay me much for my voice.
Masami Moriya: The knockoff George
Tim Dang: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Masami Moriya: now. Yeah. well, Tim, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I’m excited to hear about your, your lived experiences and, your determinant east, west players, and intending to film and television industry. You’ve done so much for so many years. I’m really excited to hear more about you from yourself.
So yeah. Thank you. So.
Tim Dang: Glad to share.
Masami Moriya: Well, Tim, I’d love for you to introduce yourself what you’re doing now to hear what people were because you’re already doing. You’re still doing amazing things, but I want to hear, introduce you to the audience.
Tim Dang: Oh
sure. [00:02:00] Well, when I left east west players back in 2016 as the artistic director there, I wanted to know if there was one more chapter or at least a couple more chapters. I don’t want to date myself or, or say that I’m, that I’m old and falling off the cliff, but, wanted to see what else was out there.
I think as an artist that all of us. Crave the, the appetite to, to tell more stories and to tell as many stories as we can, because in essence, I believe all artists are storytellers and master storytellers at that. And what was really nice is that my, my old Alma mater USC, called me and asked if I wanted to teach and to share, you know, my, my experience and my expertise with, emerging artists, mainly actors and directors.
And, so with that, I started the, you know, the teaching at [00:03:00] UIC as well as mentoring. there’s another college called AMTA. The. American musical and dramatic arts, college of the performing arts in Hollywood that also called upon me and, to help in terms of the networking and business essentials of being an artist.
And, and that was something that was very interesting to me because I think basically when we graduate from college, we are taught to be artists, but we don’t know the business of the art. And I think that that was something where I could share. And, and so, you know, that’s, that’s been happening quite a bit now in terms of the whole idea of education, as well as mentoring.
And, that’s really hit a really, a really nice spot for me as I think of retiring and, and leaving, you know, the legacy of Asian-American work to the next generation.
Masami Moriya: [00:04:00] yeah. I really appreciate that because I think most people don’t you’re right. We will go to be an artist. You do the films or you write your screenplays wherever you’re kind of doing, but learning the business side is really valuable.
Tim Dang: Right.
Masami Moriya: how to sell yourself, but know how to the industry works.
So what advice do you give your students? Mt. The business side.
Tim Dang: I think in terms of The business side.
it’s really important that we learn how to tell our story. And again, you know, I’m saying our story, meaning your own personal, authentic story. Because a lot of times it’s artists, we play characters where we tell other people’s stories, but we’re not necessarily.
Great at telling our own story. So that’s really important. And once you open yourself up to telling your story, to, to other people, you know, whether it’s a job interview or getting an agent or, or, you know, if you’re trying to go to, another platform in [00:05:00] terms of being a writer or a director, those, those ways of networking becomes very important because I think people want to see how you’re able to communicate and collaborate.
And, and that’s really important for, for those people who want to take that leadership position as a writer, as a director, as a producer. it’s totally different from that as, as that avid performer. And so, you know, just learning how to navigate, The business by your own communication and being comfortable with yourself, I think is really important.
Masami Moriya: Yeah, so that authenticity, like bringing it back and deepening your understanding of.
Tim Dang: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of, the, I guess the correct word is there’s a lot of appropriation that is happening out there. And so how do you navigate, how do you talk about that? and, and the thing about [00:06:00] it is that there’s no one, you know, black and white answer, there’s a lot of gray area in which we, in which we navigate.
And the thing about it is how well can you actually navigate that? you know, we were actually talking about this at a, USC affinity group, yesterday in the school of dramatic arts. And we wanted to have an a P I affinity. And so, you know, there’s a lot of us thinking, okay, that would be great. But what happens if someone wants to start like a south Asian group or a Desi group, right.
You know, sometimes the, the, the Desi experience is different from an Asian American experience or, you know, the Filipino experience is different from the Taiwanese experience. So how is it that we bring together this affinity group or do we separate? And then what about all of our allies who are non-Asian who want to be part of this Asian American [00:07:00] affinity group?
You know, how do we, how do we deal with that? So I think the more that we can actually voice that, that, or voice your perspective, and to be heard and to be included is very important. Although there is really no. No black and white answer to this because the whole idea of culture and equity and social justice, it continually evolves every single day.
The language changes in terms of, you know, how we identify changes every day. And, and the key to that is how well you can navigate that.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. And I’d like to go further into that. I think that’s, an issue within the Asian American industry, communities having separated groups, because we don’t want to be Asian, American, Asian, American, Pacific Islander, south Asian and Southwest Asian. Like, there’s always, it’s just a separation, but we still need to come together.
But if we don’t separate, we can’t deepen the conversation of what it means to be in [00:08:00] those group, different groups.
Tim Dang: Right. So that’s why I believe we have to take a both and approach that. Yes. Okay. So let’s come together as, you know, the, the AAPI, affinity group. And then, you know, we will meet, you know, every, so often within that we will break that down. And so, you know, any other groups.
that identify differently within the AAPI group, you know, can also meet separately.
and then there, there might be times where, you know, when, when the allies also want to meet up, how is it that, that we are able to integrate and include the allies? Because again, you know, building community is very, very important, especially nowadays. And, and how is it that we are able to align all of our goals together and lift each other up in.
Tim Dang: In a way where we celebrate, I guess, the different cultural, aspects of our [00:09:00] community, but then we also celebrate the commonality. And, and, you know, and, and, and it gets larger and larger in terms of, you know, how do we integrate, you know, ourselves with the black community? or African-American we had that conversation too, is like, you know, some, some people call themselves black and other people call themselves African-American.
And so, you know, who are we as Asian-Americans to help to clarify that identification. Right? And so it is no, the, you know, the, each community has to identify as, as their own. you know, we were also talking about the LGBTQ in terms of, well, how do we, how do we create that affinity group as well? Because there might be just, you know,you know, a group of, of gay males who want to meet together or of, of lesbians and, and, something very interesting came up is.
Out of the entire, school of dramatic arts at USC, only one person had identified themselves as non-binary. And we were [00:10:00] saying, is that possible? Is that possible that only one person would identify as non-binary in, in a school of dramatic arts of 500 people, 500 students and, and, and it came to the point.
Well, you know, that means that our work as faculty and staff, Has has failed in a way in which those individuals do not feel safe, that they can identify, because we know that there are probably more people who are actually questioning or, or non-binary, and, don’t feel safe coming out as so. And so, it was a very interesting aspect that we need to look upon and that we need to learn.
And, you know, that’s, that’s an important thing is that we as faculty also need to learn from the student body.
Masami Moriya: Yeah, well that, the developing conversation about DEI and equity inclusion is what does that come to? How do we, how do we navigate that? How do we, not turn into a business, [00:11:00] but how do we put policy around that? What are we doing for that, those communities, and developing those conversations, even for like Asian American, men and Asian American women, very different topics.
And what are we when we don’t have those conversations in that depth with those people? cause it’s always weird. Like you want to make too much space for only men it’s like, and then it’s, it sounds, feels weird. But at the same time, we still need to have that conversation with what we’re going to do about it.
and make and deepen that, that.
Tim Dang: Right, right. And that was part of the conversation as well. I think, you know, many of the black males, in the school also wanted to feel like they needed to, to come together to talk about, you know, issues that are, that are, that pertain to black men. you know, because of, of the lives that they lead 24, 7 as, as a black man and, and you know, what is it that they face?
So, you know, I think that there are so many, so many perspectives. And how do [00:12:00] you, how do you be inclusive? Of those perspectives have those voices heard. And I think a lot of it deals with how is it that you can tell your story? We go back to the story. I think story is, is everything. everything we do from, you know, film, TV, stage books, visual arts, dance, you know, even this podcast is all about communicating a certain kind of story.
And, and, and what is it, you know, of this story, you know, you go to school, you learn about story beginning, middle end, or, you know, what is the emotional arc of, of the piece that all that becomes so important? And how is it that we, as people of color we have as Asian Americans, how do we put that story forth?
And there’s so many different ways in terms of, how it is that we do it. And I feel like as artists and, you know, the best way. To put our story [00:13:00] forward is, is by the art of storytelling, whether it is by film or TV or through a play, w or through a script. And, and that becomes very important. And, and those become.
You know, part of the Asian-American legacy. So as we build the Canon of Asian-American plays or Asian-American film, Asian American television shows, you know, that, that forms that legacy. And I think, you know, we talked a little bit, or, or we’re going to be talking a little bit about, about history and impact, and that, becomes really important in terms of, you know, what happened back in the, in the 1940s when, you know, the Japanese Americans were incarcerated, right.
And, and who is going to tell those stories and how does that, those stories continue, you know, through the different generations. So that, so that we remember, you know, w what happened back in nine in, in, in the 1940s, you know, much [00:14:00] like the, the way that.
You know, I had created kind of like a, a docu musical about the Tiananmen square uprising of 1989, called Beijing spring because the Chinese government is trying to erase what happened. And and a lot of, Chinese students that I come into contact with, they have no idea, or they may heard a little bit, you know, just an inkling about what happened in 1989. But, but the Chinese government has literally erased that experience, you know, out of the, out of the history of Oaks. And that’s why, Beijing spring was, was actually created.
Tim Dang: And so that, yes, there is a way of remembering it and, And, you know, commemorating the, the Valiant effort of, of those students who, who fought for, you know, quote unquote freedom or certain kinds of, of freedom. And so, you know, that idea of storytelling becomes so important [00:15:00] for us. And the more that we can, create all these different stories, I think that the, the, the Asian American history will make so much more impact in terms of the, what we would call the, you know, the, the entire history of, of, you know, America and how Asian-Americans played a vital role in it.
Masami Moriya: And you’re speaking my language right now. no, it’s great. Cause you perfectly transitioned to us where I wanted to go is arts advocacy and impact. So I think that’s a really huge part. Not only does art reflect society, but it also changes. And when we, and we recognize that it’s more than just like, I feel like we don’t, we don’t, we definitely don’t get enough history within school system.
And once we’re out of the school system, we don’t really go back. There’s no, there’s no, incentive to go back to school for history in the general public. But I think, arts film, television plays not only, can record and, record, but like play back what history is [00:16:00] and teach us in such an entertaining way.
The black path is called edutainment, right. Something you’re gonna educate while you be have an entertainment, cause you’re gonna want to come back for entertainment, but still be educated. And so when you did your, when did Beijing spring, cause even when I had heard your interview earlier, I don’t know enough about tenement square.
I know I’ve seen pictures. I know it happened, but I, I didn’t know what year it was. I don’t know what the issues are. And so, you know, and it’s definitely in, not in America. I think that’s, there’s so much in America in Asian-American history that Asians, Asian Americans have changed society. They’ve changed the community for themselves, but we don’t know enough about it.
So can you speak on, what theater and storytelling do when, when we start to, we play those back and teach ourselves, I teach at the teach the next generation, and what that does for, you know, the conversation around Asian men.
Tim Dang: Right. You know, you know, I think basically what, what art does or, you know, theater, does, is that, you know, it holds up a mirror right. [00:17:00] To, to society. And for a lot of us as Asian Americans, you know, what we want to do as, as Asian-Americans, you know, again, as, as artists and that we want to be able to, you know, Tell our stories that the basic thing about we as artists is that we are there to advocate for some kind of change by putting, you know, by putting a, you know, a mirror up to, you know, the community so that, you know, we can actually take a look at ourselves.
it’s also an opportunity for us to actually question what is happening in society. Cause a lot of times, you know, when we’re living life, we don’t necessarily actually. See it from the outside, you know, it’s almost like, you know, you know, stopping, stepping outside of the picture and then looking in at the picture.
Tim Dang: And I think that’s what artists actually give, the community or the audience, an opportunity to, to, to do that. We are [00:18:00] actually looking at something like looking at the mirror. You’re kind of like stepping outside of it and looking at, go, okay, look at the, look at how it is that we’re living, you know, look at the inequities or the injustice that is happening.
Do you recognize that? I mean, because when you’re actually living it, you may not necessarily be experiencing it, but once you step outside of it and you observe it, then you go, oh, okay. Now, now I see. And, and I think that that’s what, Many of the Asian American artists, whether they know it or not, that, you know, while they are being creative, they are also being forward-thinking by, by moving, by moving, society, just one step further in terms of actually looking at itself and, and, and having them have a different perspective of what PRC, you know, I mean, you know, [00:19:00] David, we’re going deep.
So, you know, even when you think of, you know, what’s happening now with, with people, you know, getting vaccinated and, and all that, and we’re talking about, well, you know, Once maybe someone who is not being vaccinated when someone in their family gets COVID and, and is hospitalized or, and, you know, maybe that’s when they’ll, you know, have that opportunity to say, oh gosh, maybe I should get vaccinated because now it’s actually affecting you.
Right. And so, so what happens is that, you know, you have all these stories, but then you’re saying, well, you know, this story, isn’t me, you know, this Asian American story, isn’t isn’t me. And, but it’s not until you actually step outside of it. And, and you look at it and you go, oh my gosh. You know, maybe this aspect of it is me, is my family.
This is about my family, about, you know, some kind of struggle. and so. That’s what we as artists do is that we actually, have our audience [00:20:00] stop and actually take a look and, and say, Hey, this is, or this could be your story, and this is how you can relate to it. That’s how we, as Asian-Americans grew up, right.
We grew up seeing, you know, TV shows that, that have, you know, Caucasian people in it. And somehow we were connecting to it and now, you know, maybe the opposite will happen and you’ll see an Asian show. And then people are saying, well, you know, that’s not me that, you know, that’s, that’s the age, but it’s like, you know, we bring this dignity and humanity to, to it that may be, you know, a non-Asian person would not have seen.
but you know, that, that’s the great aspect of it. you know, in terms of art and how we actually relate to it.
Masami Moriya: Right. I think there’s, so much, so much still to be done. And that’s the thing too, because there is not enough representation on screen, mostly within the writer’s rooms, right? It’s the writers and the directors, producers who are telling those stories. And we don’t really have enough of that. I think there’s a responsibility of the next generation to take, [00:21:00] take on a little bit more advocacy for those roles to change parts of society.
I would chart the industry generally, because then that gives us more opportunities to make more, tell deeper stories, have more control over those stories to, I feel like there’s just, we might see Asians on the screen, but sometimes they still written by white people. I think that’s becoming a problem.
what do you see that we could start moving towards. Like a better tomorrow. Like, what are we, what, what can we do? And part of that is, mom coming, this question is that theater is actually, the east west players has done so much to change like the theater industry. And when I look at least verse players, it’s like a goalpost because I see what e-sports players had, has, has done and still does do is really advocate for their, for Asian American stories and across the board and develop those really great.
Masami Moriya: But that’s not what’s happening within the Hollywood industry. I think it part of it’s because you can build your own theater company and book your own [00:22:00] plays and doing yourselves, whereas Hollywood kind of, you’re kind of holding to a system that’s already set in place. So do you see what people can start doing now?
Just to move towards a better, a better Hollywood.
Tim Dang: you know, I, I do see that there is change that that is happening, that there are more, directors of color. There are more writers of color. I mean, I was totally,Happy about, you know, Chloe Zhao winning the DGA, the, the Oscar for best director. I, you know, I, you know, I signed an NDA, for a video game that I just voiced a couple of days ago, but the writer was an Asian-American woman and it was like for a video game and it’s like, wow.
You know, you always think that the video game is, is such a male world. And, and yet she was, she was the writer and, and, and, you know, she was there, you know, creating the character, with me as I [00:23:00] was helping to voice it. And I thought, wow, you know, this is great. This is, this is happening. and then there are many people that, that I know of from the theater world that are now going into the film and TV, world, You know, like Leah non Leah Nanako Winkler, who wrote Kentucky as, you know, as a playwright and now she writes for Netflix.
And so, you know, I think that, that there are some great things happening. I also think by some weird way that, you know, there’s a lot of, shows that Netflix is, is taking from, from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, dubbing it, and then putting it on and in some weird way, I think that, that, that development of the audience.
Somehow watching that. And you know, like if squid games was number one in 90 countries, you know, I’m, I’m wondering whether [00:24:00] Hollywood is taking note of this and going, Hey, you know, Netflix has, has, is onto something and maybe there is a way that they can help turn that,to monetize that and, and to expand that business that, you know, Asian-American content is, is big and it, it will only get bigger.
And how do we get a piece of that pie by using, you know, the Asian-American, Asian-American story and by that is, you know, hiring more people in, in, in that creative, with that creative empowerment in terms of writing and,and, and directing and producing, There’s this group called Cape. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Cape, the coalition of Asian Pacifics and entertainment.
And, maybe about 10 or 15 years ago, I was a member of Cape and, and these were Asian Pacific executives. And there were probably less than a hundred people, that was part of this [00:25:00] group. And I believe today there are more than 300 of them. And so I do think that there is change happening, perhaps not fast enough.
and, and I think that, you know, when, when you have these, you know, big blockbuster movies, like coming in and, you know, and, and these others,oh gosh, who is that one actor Benedict long in the Marvel movies that’s coming that you
Tim Dang: know that there. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The attorney was in Dr. Strange.
And that, that, you know, I think that there are things happening out. On an international level, right? So the Asian American, Asian American with the quotes on American is still a little bit invisible, but I think that, that it is, it is coming along, especially when we have, you know, great executive producers like, Daniel Dae, Kim, you know, I think he’s doing really great, you know, from transitioning from actor into, into being an [00:26:00] executive producer, which is really great.
Sandra O has done some, some great things as, as about just in terms of all of a sudden she’s playing not necessarily an Asian, but she’s just playing an American role, which, which I think is, is, you know, another, another milestone for, for Asian-American actors who just want to do. An actor. and so, you know, that becomes very important, but, but at the same time when, Sandra oh, is, is in, is in, is headlining a movie, there has to be parents and who are the parents, the parents are going to be Asian.
Tim Dang: And so, you know, that, that becomes, you know, a really smart way in terms of how is it that, that this becomes just, you know, part part of everyday life. And I think it is growing. and I hope that, you know, the younger generation and, and, you know, individuals, like you just, just continue to expand that this, this, this [00:27:00] knowledge that, that, you know, will just grow and grow and grow.
And, so that we don’t necessarily have to think of it as, okay. We’re advocating, we have to be activists and all that, that, that we, we just don’t.
Masami Moriya: Yeah, I want to get past the I’m having to do it because there isn’t enough and just doing it because we want to deal with it.
Tim Dang: Right, right, right.
Masami Moriya: Right. And I think there’s a, I mean, I have a lot of thoughts on different things here that we just explained. One of the biggest things is that, you know, You know, one thing was, talking about squid games is like, I think language justice is really important, right?
With most of shows are either in foreign languages or in English. w you know, I think Netflix has a lot of English shows, which, you know, a lot Americans get, but when you translate it and have it dubbed it for me, even myself, like as much as I’ll, I’ll, I’ll read the subtitles, sometimes I’m multitasking.
And just wanting to listen, just to have like anime anime, when it’s dubbed, I’m able to just listen to enjoy the show and still do it. Netflix is still getting my money and my viewpoint at that point. So why [00:28:00] not like even square games? I, you know, I’ll be honest. I watched it dubbed. It was easier for me to be at night.
And some people were like, you know, we kind of were tired. We don’t want to read the show or watch the, watch the things, and it’s not perfect. I think at the same time. that’s, there’s a, there’s definitely a demographic of people who won’t watch shows because it’s subtitles. And so getting those people, getting that audience brings it back in.
I think that’s why, shows like squid game did very well. And even, I think it was the heist, this TV show that they, it was in Spanish, but they debit for every language. And that’s why it did so well. in all, in being an Asian Americans being, you know, so, over 300 languages, just in America, like you, you want the Asian languages, there’s so much to be that you can’t watch sometimes that you can’t even watch cause they don’t debit or subtitle in those languages.
So if you started doing more, you get a bigger audience. cause if you have like shows, we want to do Asian American shows. Cause I think a lot of Asian cultures in Asia don’t understand Asian American. [00:29:00] Because it doesn’t get seen. Right. So I think even if we start to do stuff in Asian-American storytelling, we need to start dubbing it for those cultures, those, those countries, so that people can kind of get a better understanding of what that is.
I think it’s just a part of the system that needs to start changing. cause we still, again, even like school games is south Korean. We don’t have Asian American shows or TV movies that often it’s usually even Sean cheese, it might be in America at the beginning, but they’re always going back to China, Singapore, you know, other countries, which perpetuate that form this.
Tim Dang: right,
Masami Moriya: there’s more to be done there.
Tim Dang: Absolutely.
Masami Moriya: so I’m curious to know, I want to go back a little bit into, east west players. Now, when did you get involved with east west players and then you’re transitioning to becoming artistic.
Tim Dang: Well, you know, upon, graduation, from college, at USC, my, my senior advisor had told me, okay, [00:30:00] Tim, you’ve been living in a bubble now for four years. you know, getting lead roles, you know, in, in, in the plays there at USC and, you know, learning and honing my craft. He told me that, when I graduate the real world is going to be really different for Asian Americans.
because there are not that many roles out there and the roles that are out there are, you know, the stereotypical, you know, whatever the gang member or, You know, the, the bus boy, all that. And so, so he told me that I should probably continue my studies by going to, e-sports players that, that he had heard that there was.
Tim Dang: And, at that time, an Oriental theater company, you know, called east west players and that the artistic director was Mako who, you know, who was a, you know, academy award nominee, as well as Tony award nominee. And, and that, you know, he [00:31:00] was the artistic director there. So, I literally, went to.
You know, right after I graduated and met Mako and learned at that time east, west players was a deuce pain organization. So with the dues pain organization, I think it was $35 a month, that was basically to help pay for the rent. I guess, of the space is that we could take the free classes that was offered by other artists in the group.
And that only those artists that were part of east west players could actually audition the, you know, the dues pain audience. So, so it was a deuce pain, organization until about the late eighties when it became, you know, anyone, anyone could join or auditions were open and they did away with the,With the monthly dues and, and they, they just started, you know, having like tuition for classes and all that, but that’s where I got started [00:32:00] and, basically was a performer.
the great thing is that now through lived experience, I was watching, you know, how Mako directed, I was watching how the box office worked. I was watching how they were hanging lights and all that. And so all of that came into my psyche in terms of just being aware of what all the different aspects of running a theater was.
Tim Dang: Then in the late eighties, the whole, and you might be too young David, but there was the miss Saigon controversy where in Ms. Sight, miss Saigon, opened in London, starring Lea Salonga and Jonathan Price. And they were now coming to Broadway with the same actors in the leading roles and the Asian-American, artists, picketed, miss Saigon, because they thought.
They should have the chance to audition for the role of the engineer [00:33:00] played by Jonathan Price, a white man, and that, and that the Asian Americans needed that opportunity to, to audition for that role, or, or, actors equities should not let that actor in. you know, and again, there, there are all these, labor, labor disputes that are happening as well as those disputes about discrimination and race that that was happening.
So I was a big part of, of that, of that protest. And one of the things that the producer Cameron Macintosh, you know, mentioned that that was in the New York times is like, you know, if these Asian Americans are protesting this, they should go and do their own. Their own, you know, their own stories, their own plays.
And so that’s when I started, okay. I want to learn how to be a director so that I can cast who I want to cast. And if I want to cast all Asians in, in something that was not necessarily all Asian, I could, because this is what [00:34:00] Cameron Mackintosh was doing. but you know, long story short, w everybody learned everybody learned from this, including Cameron Mackintosh, because, you know, after that controversy, Cameron McIntosh casts the engineer, as someone who was Asian or part Asian, and as there were other aspects of say, like Les Miserables opened that there were Asia, Leah Salonga, you know, was able to play, Eponine in Les Miserables and this other Filipino named Joan Amadea played Fontine and Leymah’s so even Kevin Macintosh learned that, you know, there.
It is good business in terms of casting diversity, you know, where, where they saw that they could. and, and I think that that was very important. So that’s when I learned how to, to direct, because then the artistic directors were giving me the opportunities to direct at east west players. So then when the second artistic director, noble [00:35:00] McCarthy stepped down due to health issues, their board of directors, the e-sports players, board of directors approached to me, in terms of, you know, I was being referred by Nova McCarthy to, to take over that position as artistic director.
a lot of people came forward, you know, and they were going to help teach me in terms of, you know, how to fundraise because in our district director also has to fundraise as, but as well as doing the creative aspect of, of the theater and. So that’s what happened and what the actors really wanted was to eventually move from a 99 seat theater to a professional contract, which was an actor’s equity contract.
Tim Dang: And that’s when we moved down to little Tokyo in what, 1998. And, and I think that, that learning experience was, was, was great for me as well as for east west players, because east west players was now on, on the national map, just in [00:36:00] terms of, you know, it is possible, you know, especially for a theater of color to have done it.
It is possible to move from a 99 seat theater, which there were about 200 theaters in LA at that time that were 99 seat. And that you could move up to that professional level and pay the actor, a living wage. As well as health benefits. and that was the real important thing. at least for me, is that actors good could get a living wage, even though it was barely a living wage.
But, but that’s another part of, you know, the, the artist’s life, right? The artist has to have different jobs at different production companies and that pieces together a career, but having health insurance was also really important. you know, that’s probably more important than, than the actual, you know, living wage at the time.
So, that’s how I got started at, at east west players. And it’s, it’s been a part of my life even after I’ve left in 2016, I am still connected, [00:37:00] with snail decide who’s the current artistic director, there as. You know, as well as many of the seasoned subscribers who supported these west for a long time and the artists, of course, I’m still in contact with.
So, so it’s been a very, very nice journey, you know, east, west players has.
Masami Moriya: Wow. That was really incredible. I have not actually heard, that part of the story I’ve heard bits and pieces, but to hear how it developed from that nine nines of theater to something that’s over 200 seats
Tim Dang: right right?
Yeah. It’s 240 seats.
Masami Moriya: That’s incredible. And, and how, you know, giving, making the living wages and health benefits?
I hadn’t heard that party that I think that that is really important because that’s sustainability, for those actors to keep going for the company to keep producing more and feeling like they’re putting back into the community with what they can do. I want to take a quick step back into the. The protest and that those advocacies, I think [00:38:00] we don’t see that very often anymore.
I’ve seen in history, I’ve seen, a couple of different times. I think there was another one for a couple of maybe early two thousands for another, another show. but I want to hear more Asian Americans protesting, standing up for something or standing against something. And we don’t really hear that.
And what did yeah, what did that do? Because I feel like that sparked a new imagination did do something right to do, to be, to direct your own
Tim Dang: Right. So, right. So the thing about it is that. I think it was really important that the community at large support the protests, that it’s not necessarily just the artists, because what happens is that when the artists protests, they actually put their careers on the line. Right. So that they know that, you know, they, that Cameron Mackintosh will most, the, the producer, miss Saigon will more than likely, never cast any of these people that are [00:39:00] protesting.
I mean, you know, the pictures were in the New York times. So, you know, you could see who was protesting. I mean, BD Wong was one of the lead protestors there, David Henry Wong, the playwright lead protests. So, you know, again, you know, w w. I don’t think BD Wong has been in a Cameron Mackintosh show. you know, since that protest, but BD Wong is doing fine, you know, thank you very much.
So, so, so, so it’s, it’s very hard for the artists to actually put themselves on the line because they themselves may get blacklisted as to never work again. And you know, other producers saw that, okay, they caused this kind of trouble, you know, so, so it was very important for the community to actually stand up.
And I think that there were some really smart minded professors on race from UCLA and USC who actually got into the mix and say, you know, this is, this is appropriation. This is what is wrong about miss Saigon.[00:40:00] And I’ll be just know that I have a lot of actor, friends and colleagues and people that went through east west players that have gone to Broadway in miss Saigon.
And we totally respect what it is that they do because miss Saigon, every time miss Saigon has done it employs 27 Asian Americans, you know, giving them a production contract, which at that time was something like $1,200 a week and health benefits. Right. So you got to think as an actor, okay. This is what the play does.
Right. You know? Yeah. And right. It’s a job and, and it’s basically, it’s a. you know, it’s Madame butterfly, right? In terms of the, you know, the white savior comes and saves the, you know, the Asian woman and all that. So the themes, you know, what do the themes represent? But again, this is, this is a job. And so, so we knew what those actors who were in miss Saigon, what they were fighting, or you know, what [00:41:00] they were dealing with.
And at the same time, there was a lot of us who were protesting it, you know, about the labor issue. It was the labor issue about it. We were not necessarily judging it on its content, you know, because the content is, if you like that and go, go see it. If you don’t like it, don’t go see it. Right. So, but, but it was basically the labor issue of.
Asian-Americans not having the opportunity to audition for the lead role. you know, which was played by a white man. And I, and I think that that’s where a lot of the confusion happened because there was a lot of confusion about the themes. And then there was a lot of confusion about the actual labor labor issue, but it was big.
The show was actually canceled and actors’ equity the union actually back to their actors, which was great. But then once they canceled, then the, the technical unions and all these other unions, started to go against actors’ equity because now not [00:42:00] only were they not, you know, employing actors, they were now not employing all the backstage actors, which were probably three times as many people as those people on stage.
So, you know, and, and they knew that, you know, miss Saigon,the creators of miss Saigon were the same creators of Les Miz. mega musical and here we, and here Broadway was canceling a musical just because of a labor issue. And so it’s like, okay, well, you know, let’s try to solve that labor issue. And what they did is that miss Saigon came back to Broadway, but that Jonathan Price, his contract would only be for nine months and after nine months, because he was already engaged after the nine months that they would cast an Asian American on Broadway for the rest of the run of miss Saigon, before the role of the engineer.
So that was kind of like the takeaway for that. And it did make, you know, a couple of other people, you know, [00:43:00] famous, you know, just because they, they, you know, that. I mean, the play, miss Saigon is still the play miss Saigon, whether you like it or not. And, but it does employ 27, Asian Americans every time that show is mounted.
So, I don’t know how you feel about that. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s one of that. That’s a push and pull and, and again, you know, our conversation at the very beginning is how well do you navigate these conversations? You know, knowing that, that it gives jobs to Asian-Americans, but at the same time, if you totally, you know, protests, you know, the production, you know, what does that mean?
And, and how do you, how do you remedy this, this, if not miss Saigon, then. And, and, and what is it that, that we do, you know, and then you talk about miss Saigon, miss Saigon was totally made by, we’re created by, non-Asians. So, you know, how much of that [00:44:00] is, you know, again, appropriated, but then we have a lot of shows that are appropriated.
You have Porgy and Bess that was written by the Gershwin’s, you know, is that appropriated and that’s a story about, you know, that’s the African-American story supposedly. And so, there’s a lot of things. in our history that that is questionable. And so how was it that we move ahead and how, how is it that we advance? And that’s where I think.
that, I would say modern day, at the, artists modern day, artists and advocates are, you know, how do we move that forward to create change?
Masami Moriya: Yeah. That’s a lot of history that I didn’t know. no. And this icons, I think we should, well, I think a part of it is that we don’t know this history and I don’t, I didn’t know enough of this history. I know a good handful of our Asian American entertainment, music and music and television history, but not, not necessarily everything, but I think most of us, Asian Americans don’t even know the entertainment industry.
We see it today, but we [00:45:00] don’t really go back, like even mentioned Mako and Nobu. Like I, cause I’ve gone through the archives and watched, I’ve seen so much, in so many different places and they’re incredible. I wish I could speak to them today, but, there was other people who we just. No. And it’s and this from miss Saigon, it was so it sounds so messy because that’s the issue has people don’t want to even try to touch it because it’s so messy.
You start picking at one thing, it breaks things down. It’s terrace means a park. Is that the actors don’t, they think it’s about them and it’s not about them. it’s, it’s a whole issue. And I still see, I kind of still see it today and it’s a weirder conversation. Cause I do think there is that there’s a lot of people you and I have talked to it’s like, they don’t want to say something because they are looking for that job.
Me I’m I go, I come from that political, advocacy activist background in New York. It’s just like, if I don’t say any something it’s, nothing’s going to change. I don’t care if I, you know, I can risk my job, but I, same time we got to, if I don’t, I can always that job for that one person. I probably don’t want to work with that person.
so like, what are we, [00:46:00] how are we doing it for even just the next generation, even it’s not for me, it’s for the next generation of people to do more. so having, having a voice standing up for something, talking with the community. So even here, like, for all American girl, I’m Margaret show you an Asian American can you did not support that at all.
and that’s why it kind of stopped at the first season. I recently just watched it and I thought it was incredible. My grandmother watched it. She’s like, this is great. it’s so funny. She didn’t see represents with the grandmother character. And, and so we need more voices like that to, to say something.
Masami Moriya: And I think the other conversation now is too is, you know, it’s not even about, white men or white people telling our stories. It’s actually, becoming this thing. Other whos, what kind of Asian is telling this type of story? because I’ve seen shows that are about Japanese Americans who are not written in toll by Japanese Americans and doesn’t make sense to me.
Like you’re not, that’s not the story it is. And so I think that’s gums, even another layer of like what, who, who is really telling those [00:47:00] stories, who gets the ability to tell those stories, because how they’re told resonates more with that community when you do it. and there’s a lot that part of the conversation is still developing, but I think there’s just needs to be louder voices, younger voices too.
Cause you know, the next generations really seeing, they’re going to have to take up, whatever’s being passed down,
Tim Dang: Right.
Masami Moriya: to what are we doing today to think about building affinity groups, building,groups within ourselves to have more, more power within ourselves and, and talk about these issues.
Tim Dang: Right, right. Okay. Well, let know, let me ask you this question. Okay. Let me interview you for, for
Masami Moriya: Okay,
Tim Dang: there. So, so, you know, because you know, you, you, from the younger generation and being an artist and an activist that, okay, so, so let let’s say, okay, let’s take a real life,thing that is happening.
So farewell my concubine, a very, very famous book and movie, right. is going to Broadway as a musical [00:48:00] and the, The book writer is a Chinese American named Kenneth Lin. he wrote, oh, he was on staff for, oh gosh. What was that? Kevin Spacey, where he played the precedent
how’s the cards.
Tim Dang: house of cards. Thank you. so, he was a head writer on, on house of cards.
So he’s writing the, the book to the music, to the musical, but, Jason, Robert Brown, a very celebrated and accomplished Jewish composer is doing the music to fail while my conky mind. And so it’s going to, it’s going to be on Broadway and, and I’m just wondering, you know, they’re having a lot of focus groups.
The producers are in terms of how is it that we get buy-in from the community in terms of this. So, so. It’s better than miss Saigon. It’s not like an all white team coming in and you know, we’re going to produce, this play about, you know, a [00:49:00] Chinese opera actress, you know, there’s, you know, there’s kind of like a, a gay storyline that, that comes through that.
but you know, Jason, Robert Brown is not Asian, but do you feel that by the producers reaching out to the community that that is something that helps with the buy-in of, or support of the project? Or, or do you think that, you know, we, we need, we need to find, I guess more authentic representation of, of the stories that are, you know, that, that that’s going to be done.
You know what I mean? I mean like, like, oh God, John Chu and in the Heights, you know, he had the opportunity to direct in the Heights, but in the Heights is a, you know, a Latin X, you know, story. But then the African-Americans got after John, John Chu and Lin Manuel Miranda, because there wasn’t enough African-Americans, [00:50:00] you know, in, in, in Washington Heights in terms of the actual.
Tim Dang: And so, I don’t know it’s. Yeah.
W how is it that, that you, in terms of the next gen, you know, artists and activists, you know, how is it that you navigate these conversations?
Masami Moriya: yeah. great question. I think the thing going back is, is thinking about who has the power over, over the story, right? So if Kenneth is writing the book, but if Jason Wright, is writing the musical, it’s like, does Kenneth tell Jason how much the music matters and what. The themes and dialogue are, or is Jason telling him, it’s who has the power?
Who has the money who’s producing who’s directing? I think, cause if in like a showrunner’s room, like, if there’s an Asian, show runner, they still tell the writers what to do. The staff writers. They don’t really have a huge say, that can pitch, but the showrunner has the final say so in a theater, I’m not sure that [00:51:00] theater dynamics, but whoever has that power to, build in those things.
That’s what matters. now I think for something like this, it’s specifically for the producers reaching out to the community to get the buy-in. I think what would be better is if Jason you to step down and give it to somebody else or find somebody, who, who could tell the story, because then you don’t have to convince the audience.
The audience has already committed. Right. So instead of having to make them like, please go watch the show. You should do it. Even though this it’s like, no, we don’t have to even do an, even though it’s just, oh, this is what days we’re going to go watch it. it’s kind of in the same situation with, John Chu.
It’s like, well, if I like in the Heights, when I watch it point blank, I, I watched it and enjoyed it. You know, I’m not, I’m not the biggest musical fan in theater. I love good performances. I love all that. I will watch a musical and I enjoy those, but I’m not like the fanatic. [00:52:00] but what I could have seen, change is if you didn’t, if you had a blunt, Latin, black, or Latin X, director, because at that is a film.
So they ha they have the most control. It’s not that Jason, Jason, John had a bad vision or didn’t know, or didn’t, couldn’t do it. Right. It’s that if you have someone from that company, Put in, they’re gonna do justice good as John Chu, but they’re going to have a broader experience from the Latin X, a black community, because that’s not necessarily him.
Right. Lived experience, living there being tapped in with the Latin X community. You’re going to know what they want. as you as an Asian American Jeff fifth generation, Japanese American, mixed person I’m tapped in with different communities than someone else would be. And so to see, someone who’s not Japanese American or mixed.
Telling Japanese American stories, they might get the surface level, maybe even a second level for being Asian American, but that [00:53:00] Def psychological family dynamics, like I’ve lived that. I know what my grandmother’s house looks like. I know what my grandmother’s, sensibility and, does to my father and what that my father does to me going back all the way towards the war.
Right. Because I’ve lived it. So as much as, John Chu might be able to direct guy Japanese American story, it’s a good thing. But at the end of the day, the storyteller and being able to bring that extra layer of, Is kind of lost, not on their part, at their fault. It’s just that they didn’t have that lived experience.
So I think moving forward, it really is who can tap in with that community, find someone who can, who has that lived experience to bring more it’s. one of the reasons why I like crazy, crazy, crazy rich Asians is written by, it was first written by a white man. Then they brought it down Lynn in and she changed everything.
Right. But then that second, when they did the, the sequel, she, right, she was not, she was offered one eighth of the pay [00:54:00] of the other white writer. So she had to leave. Who are they going to have to come back in, right. To represent that story. She’s Chinese, Chinese American to tell a Chinese story. that makes more sense if someone who was not, they might get the story like a, a structurally story, but it’s like if a director comes in and doesn’t and sees.
The set decoration is not right. They might not know. Right. It’s because they didn’t see that thing. I have a very specific memory of a rice rice measuring cup, being a specific type of metal from my grandmother’s house. And we went to plastic again, it’s not the same. And, but having that, just those it’s those minimal things.
But then when that, when the community is going to watch it, they’re going to see it. Are they going to see that’s wrong? Right. And I think, even with,Milan people really saw it and broke it down and like, that’s not right. That’s not there. Why does she have geisha makeup on like, it doesn’t make, those are the differences that I’m going to see.
And I want people to think about advocating for authenticity and, and representation [00:55:00] from that community. I wouldn’t want someone who’s Cambodian, who’s already a marginalized community within the Asian country. Be either represented on screen as an actor. Who’s not Cambodian or directed by somebody who, or written by people who are not Cambodian at all, or didn’t have any say in it because then it doesn’t fit right now.
You can have someone to come in and, help advocate that story. Tell that story a little better. Like if someone who’s not Cambodian, or as a writer talks to someone who’s Cambodian has an apart of a screenplay, not just doing one interview and tell me like, really be a part of that, development of the story, and then give them the proper credit for story, for story editor, to come in and do that, then it builds that inequity, the equitability of that person now has a story credit who can write stories might not be a screenwriter because that’s a craft, but be able to tell a story in that way, I think is very valuable, not only to that community, but to the story being a really representative representative of.
That those [00:56:00] people. So I think it’s really important to think about as we move forward.
Tim Dang: Right. Right. Totally agree. Totally agree. Hey, do you,have you heard of this writer named Doreen Kondo?
Masami Moriya: No,
Tim Dang: She is. Oh, gosh, I forget what her exact title, but she is in ethnic studies at USC. She’s a professor, but she’s also a playwright and she wrote a play about the effects of the Japanese American incarceration on future generations, that it is in their DNA and that they suffered trauma like the Sansei and the say suffered trauma that their grandparents had in camp, though they, they never experienced camp themselves, that somehow it’s in their DNA, that they have some kind of trauma from that.
And, and her play talks about it. And it is. So when people see it, [00:57:00] they, they like agree with it. They go, yeah, I, you know, I actually. I actually have, you know, these kinds of, experiences, even though I’ve never been to camp. And, but it’s just because my, my, my grandfather or great-grandfather experienced it, it was like, it was just amazing in the way that she tells a story.
And I don’t know what it’s called. but, but it is something where it is actually in your DNA that, you know, it has traveled through the generations that fascinating. So that, that, Yeah.
that just reminded whatever that you said. Just reminded me about that.
Masami Moriya: A hundred percent, I think nine we’ll go find it and put in the show notes. But, I watch everything I could find about the camps. my grandmother is still alive and I talked to her all the time and I see, I see what that changed was I think for me, the biggest thing is I thought I was a white man for 25 years because my father had said, if no one, no one ever asks, you’re not Asian.
You’re definitely a Japanese cause they don’t want it to be [00:58:00] associated with the Japanese community. And so it was a very direct change and he didn’t, and he didn’t have be had his own problems with his own family. And we were separated from my Japanese side for so long. and that’s a part of it. And I think that in every family is different.
You know, I still see, I still see the similarities. I know a lot of other Japanese Americans who had similar situations, it’s like you didn’t associate with the Japanese American community. Didn’t get it. I know because my grandmother is still alive. She’s still in touch. I mean, I’m a ghost. So I’m fifth generation.
She was, she was already a Sansei. And so she gets a little bit about, but seeing that in traditional generational trauma get passed down to me whether directly or indirectly, because I know what happens to me. I know it happens to other Asian Americans for different reasons, right? Whether it’s refugee, refugee, trauma, immigration trauma, those get passed down for people.
So I think that’s another reason why to think about one. Who’s telling that story because my trauma is different than your trauma and my additional trauma is [00:59:00] different. But then, Being in that brings another layer of depth into your writing and direction and how you’re doing that. So I think that’s the biggest part.
and then gender, which generation. So I’ve seen, Japanese-Americans who are second generation and your first generation tried to tell the camp story and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like, it’s losing that layer. It’s like nice to see. And you can see like, oh, look at camp. And visually it looks okay because they can get some references, but that storyline gets lost or, or overwritten by some other fictionalized story that doesn’t make any sense.
Masami Moriya: And so, and I’ve seen plays from, plays and movies from Japan doing Japanese American internment. I’m like, it looks good. It’s so close. But yeah.
Tim Dang: Right,
Masami Moriya: so I think there is, it’s like, I loved it because they did a big production about it, but, you know, they made every white character, the billing, like every white characters me, except for this one white lady, but like, that’s not, that’s just not true.
It wasn’t true the whole time. So, you know, whatever Asian-American ethnicities or any ethnicity is really, that’s [01:00:00] what it really, I think, advocacy for authenticity. give that extra layer and, not only good press, but also the lack of bad press. Cause as much as in the Heights was so good, in itself, I felt really bad that it got such terrible press afterwards, but just because of,color discrimination and it didn’t need to have that if it didn’t have that part.
And you had someone who was representative and did it, right, it might wouldn’t have gotten that bad price and would have stuck the landing very well. And no one would have to backtrack the producers in PR I’m like, oh, we have to fix this. It’s just like, you know, fix it early. Right. Just
Tim Dang: Right. So, so the fixing early is, is, is an aspect where, you know, again, you know, if, if there was more conversation with, with the community, you know, about it with say what the Washington Heights community, you know, regarding this, that, that, you know, I think it’s Disney, Right. Disney would have Disney would have, you know, maybe thought about these [01:01:00] things, you know, a lot sooner as opposed to, okay, the show is already in the can now let’s see what we can do, you know about that. And, and you know, and I’m sure that Lin Manuel Miranda had a lot of authority over the casting and the look of, of, of things.
And maybe that was a blind spot for him because, you know, he wanted to concentrate so much, you know, in terms of the misrepresentation of the, of the Latin X community that. the other communities were not included. and so, you know, but, but you know, I think he owned it. He, you know, he, he did own that, you know, in, in interviews afterwards, but, but yeah, it’s, it did not make, you know, the kind of money that Hamilton has
made, you know, for him.
Masami Moriya: and if Lehman wilt Miranda had another collaborator who was a different, of that community, of the Washington Heights community yet all at all, they could see that, right? And then you have two people playing more in more depth, instead of someone who might have, they can talk to each other.
They there’s a shorthand. [01:02:00] And that’s why Asian Americans come together, Asian Americans, we don’t, you don’t have to explain, the first layer of your traumas, that your first layer of your history, I already kind of get it. We can go a little bit further into what that is, right. I think that’s, when you add more people of those communities telling that story, you get.
Richness of what that is instead of just one layer. And then because one person has the power, they’re going to have those blind spots. So how do we add in other people to get other perspectives? and that, that gives it more,
Tim Dang: right, right, right, right. Yeah. I mean, you know, and, you know, John Chu is, is moving on. He, I, he is directing now the musical, the film version of the musical wicked, which is another huge, huge, you know, musical. and, but, you know, he’ll get to tell the story of, you know, the backstory of the wizard of Oz, you know?
so the fact that, you know, Chinese American filmmaker is actually, you know, getting the opportunity to do that, that, [01:03:00] you know, that’s, you know, that that’s really great for, for his career. And, and, and I think that, you know, there was a lot of other. You know, directors of color that hopefully will ride on his coattails saying that, you know, this is possible that you know, this can be done
Masami Moriya: And that’s another part of the conversation that we won’t get into today because I want to do a couple other questions. I want to get you out of here, but, you know, people of color directing shows that are historically white, right? Wizard of Oz, the little mermaid Cinderella, like what does that look like?
What is that conversation is that, and it was not necessarily appropriation, but I think, you know, like,Romeo and Juliet, you know, having it’s going to be played on forever. And can you repeat it and repeated in different ways and variations that, you can have now we can have the ability to tell it a little bit differently, with a little more color into it.
No, that’s just another, another layer of the conversation of who gets to tell those stories. And what does it mean when, people of color telling stories historically white, this, another layer, [01:04:00]
Tim Dang: right.
Masami Moriya: yeah, now, the theater industry, I feel like they’re in alignment with the film and television industry, especially you see so many great actors come from theater because they had that practice on stage.
but I think the theater industry generally has, a leg up within diversity. it, from an outside perspective, essentially within, we to be able to build it themselves, kinda like independent. Filmmaking’s where you get, tell the story, you build it yourself, then you can move up and keep, keep providing that.
but also see the theater industry being self kind of self-sustaining, especially like east, west players. It’s pretty much self sustaining itself to keep creating more new stories. And I know there’s a new season coming up recently in one just ended. So there’s more. What, what it’s going to take to get the film and television industry to start taking, the theatrical plays and putting them into, movies and TVs.
Masami Moriya: I see them dealing with in the Heights and Hamilton and now wicked, but, you know, Asian-American storytelling has been going on in plays for [01:05:00] decades and I’ve seen old archives and I really want to see those being brought more brought out because not everybody can go to the theater. did either in, if you’re in Los Angeles, you can go to east, west players, but if you’re anywhere else, you kind of can’t.
So we’re going to go see those things. I love the archives. I’m thankful for like,UC Santa, Santa Barbara and places that I’ve seen archives from. I feel so much more connected to those because they’re Asian Americans in those leading roles, but also the writers and directors in those. So, yeah. W do you see that
Tim Dang: Well, you know, just that, just in terms Of the actual, filming, Theater productions. you know, when I left, when I left east west players, there was there, there were several ideas of. Kind of like a streaming service, or something like Netflix, but for theater productions. And that was going to start where, you know, they were gonna, Yeah.
W you know, why not, you know, videotape, you know, some of the east, west players productions [01:06:00] or, you know, any, any productions that happen at like Berkeley rep or Seattle or, or the Guthrie theater in Minneapolis. And so I don’t know where we are on that, because I know that COVID happened and, you know, everything kind of like just, just died.
And so, so just in terms of like, like how they did, Hamilton, that they actually filmed the stage production, as opposed to making a movie production of Hamilton. That that was, that was all thought of in the books in terms of, okay, this is, this is how we’re going to do it. This is how we’re going to monetize it.
So it’ll be like on a streaming kind of, aspect for, for, for that in terms of, you know, Some of the archival shows that east west players has done and frankly, you know, any other theaters have done. You know, I think that that is, that is an idea to B, to B to be thought of, you know, especially when it comes to, you know, like if your interest is the, the, you know, [01:07:00] the, the, the camps back in the forties, east-west did over, gosh, I would say a dozen and a half place about, the, the incarceration.
And so, and, and all from different perspectives, you know, from, from, from kids, from, from, from a pilgrimage to men’s and R to, to all of these, you know, different, different things. And, I think that it would be great that. If there was some kind of a, I guess some angel that would come and donate money for the creation of these, of these films.
and of course, you know, about, VC, right? Visual communications.
you know, you know, I, I think that they are now through, I think they Got a big grant from Sony where they’re actually archiving all of their shows now, so that it?
Tim Dang: can be, you know, monetized and rented and, or streamed. And I think that, you know, maybe they, [01:08:00] they can have, you know, the, the opportunity to, to actually film some of these, some, some of these, these plays that have been, you know, in, in the archives, I think that’s a, that’s a great idea.
I think for the most part, Hollywood wants to like new content because they want to be able to own the content, you know, without having any kind of, I don’t want to say baggage, but without any other kind of connection to who actually owns it, because that’s because when a play is done, the playwrights still owns the play. When a film script is done, it is actually purchased by, you know, and, and, and it is the film company that actually says, okay, this is how much authority the playwright can have or will have, because there are all these ties and incentives in terms of the money, right? The needle, you will still get X percent of box office and all that, but basically they own the property.
yeah, yeah, that, that’s my knowledge is that they actually own the property, [01:09:00] which is why sometimes there’s a. Person that is actually writing the film script to, to the actual project. So, yeah, it’s, it’s a little bit different, you know, and I’m sure that there’s a lot of like legalees, things, about that, so
Masami Moriya: No, that makes sense. Thank you. I don’t know that clarity, but yeah, I think, you know, I want to say that those dozen and half a place, you know, I’ve definitely seen probably three or four of them. But it’s like, you know, they’re, they might be lost to ages. I hope there there’s, there’s some sort of recording on some VHS somewhere.
Tim Dang: yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, yeah, I think, I think east west records it all, but, you know, yeah. I hope the VHS is not, you know, disintegrating somewhere.
you know, and I think that’s why, you know, with, with VC there, you know, maybe VC can actually help out east west players, since they’re in the same building, You know, in terms of trying to, restore or to save some of these archives and a lot of the archives actually,are at the UCLA, research library.
Tim Dang: So, Yeah.
So anything from 1965 to, I [01:10:00] believe 1992 is how that UCLA, so, you know,
Masami Moriya: So valuable and yeah, we D we need some more angels and once we get some money, we’ll be able to help with that, for sure. yeah. what do you think would keep the, Asian-American entertainment industry sustain? I feel like right now it’s, it’s, it’s always been this start stop kind of way.
Now there’s a little bit more momentum of things coming in. but do you see something that keeps us sustainable,
Tim Dang: Yeah.
Masami Moriya: for the future?
Tim Dang: Because I am here, you know, now that I’m teaching at USC and at Panda, and I see the number of Asian-American artists that are now expanding and growing, you know, from the time where, you know, I was the only Asian Americans kid in, in, you know, my BFA program to now where there’s, you know, 10 to 15 and even more, depending on what school,you go to that, that have Asian Americans that are actually in the [01:11:00] drama program or the school of cinematic arts at, at USC is when you look at, when you look at the school of cinematic arts at USC, they are primarily, Chinese Korean.
And, so you see a lot of Asian faces there. So I, I think that just in terms of the producers, directors and script writers, I think that they’re coming up and, and again, having the amount of networking and sensitivity and to have the, the, the whole idea of being able to talk about this and navigating this, just like how, how, like you navigate the, the whole idea of, of arts and, activism, together.
I, I think that, that, that becomes really important. So, so I think you’re right. You’re, you know, talking to the younger generation and to the youth about it, you know, this is what we need to talk [01:12:00] about. This is what we need to consider that it’s not necessarily just telling the story, but it’s true.
Your story that is really important and your authentic story or the authentic story, that, that becomes really important. And, and if that’s the way that we can get that to the younger generation, especially, you know, in terms of Asian American community or people of color, that that becomes very important and setting the groundwork for the future, that becomes very important. Right? So, you know, I don’t know. It’s like, I can’t just become an act. I just want to become an actor because I want to sing and dance. That’s not, I don’t think that that’s it anymore because you know, then there, then actors will be a dime a dozen because they can sing and dance, but to actually have an actor that actually says something and means something I can actually advance community, then that’s something different.
And that makes you, that makes you as an artist.
Masami Moriya: It’s so funny. I was trying to transition to that. That question is like, how do you become an [01:13:00] actor or creative? still advocate, like what are some of the challenges and like a purpose of why? and you did, you worked for the artistic director for e-sports players. That’s another layer of your career you’re putting not only aligned, but also half, at least more than half of your brain space, time efforts going there.
What do you see those challenges being for people who, are actors or creatives now who don’t know how to start into that advocacy, going further into the public space and, you know, as writers, they don’t come and do the public so much, and say things all the time, because they’re worried about getting next job or, you know, first I’m not being problematic or a, person just advocating.
what are some, the challenges that you had to overcome, to make that happen for you?
Tim Dang: I mean, I think that’s why you have to be really solid in terms of who you are. I feel like I’ve lived three lives. so my first life was, you know, as an actor slash waiter, for like the first five or six [01:14:00] years of my life. And so again, you know, this is, I was an emerging artist. you know, I feel like, yeah.
I did some commercials.
I did some guest spots. I did some plays, you know, so I had to have my, my. My feet in, in, you know, all of these different pools of, of, of jobs so that I could create an income that was enough for me to survive. Right. And, and that included, you know, waiting tables. And so, so that was, that was one aspect of it, but it wasn’t until miss Saigon.
That gave me a purpose that told me to, you know, get off my ass. And I could actually be a lot more impactful as a director because I could make a difference in the way that things were casting and in the way that things were presented on stage. So that’s when I sort of learned without going to college to get my MFA in directing, because I was observing it at, at east west players.[01:15:00]
That was my education. And that became my, my second career where it was, I was actually getting a single paycheck from east west players for 23 years. and, And that was what my impact was in terms of our mission to, to, you know, promote the Asian American, story. So, so that was the second, the third was when I left east west and I wanted to see what the next chapter was.
And for me it was more of a teaching and mentoring chapter, which was really great. But again, you know, I have to piece together a living now, you know, in my sixties. Yes. I’m over 60. That, that, yes. Okay. So I work at USC. I work at AMTA. I do voice over. I still direct plays. So, you know, all I have. 10 to 15 different jobs, you know, a year in the last five years [01:16:00] since I left east west that pieces together a career.
But I feel like everything leads to a, a mentoring and, and sharing of information of lived experience now to those of the next generation, because yes, you’re right. There is still so much to be done, but it is being in that mindset still of being forward, thinking that I think is really important, but now I have to,share this with the next generation in order to move everything forward.
Masami Moriya: Hmm.
Tim Dang: Right. And, and, and yeah, and that next generation now needs to own it continue.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. I think that’s, that’s the fight that we have to take up the mantle of just saying, well, you know, people have done it before we have to, and we’re, we’re going to be thankful and grateful for, you know, people like yourself, the legacies who’ve changed the industry, but what, who, what are we doing now?
And how are we continuing that fight more than just let me make my film, let me do the thing.
Tim Dang: Absolutely. [01:17:00] That’s exactly. That’s exactly it. Yeah. It’s much more than, Yeah.
Let me make my film. It’s like, what am I going to say now with the film? And, And and how do you use that new found celebrity when you launch the film in terms of what it is, what is it that you’re going to say?
you know, when you have that opportunity to be in front of a camera or a microphone.
Masami Moriya: And sh and yeah, mentoring the next people right now, mentoring people and sharing, sharing that information because it’s not a, you know, if I’m winning, you, can’t win. It’s, I’m winning. You can win too. Let me help you get there. and a party like this podcast is like learning from yourselves, are the legacies, or who’ve done things for so many long, for so many years, to learn to what we’re doing now.
you know, we take this, we’re all volunteers here, so we want to make sure that we’re still mentoring and sharing. Even if I’m just two steps ahead, one step ahead. Somebody else can learn something. I think that’s, as long as we’re continuing that cycle of education, in some way and mentorship, I think it’s, I think that we need.
Tim Dang: That’s right. That’s right. [01:18:00] Absolutely correct.
Masami Moriya: I want to leave with a couple last minute questions. w w you are yourself a legacy in my mind, and a lot of people, and you’ve left, left so many legacies for us to follow, but is there a legacy that you want to leave behind
Tim Dang: You know, I think, You know, just the idea of the Asian. and then I will quote, you know, put in quotes American, just the idea of the Asian American story I think is, is really important. you know, the fact that the fact that, you know, you mentioned that you were go say, is that right? Fifth
generation is that is just mind boggling because we are still fighting the fact that we,or you, you know, can be considered a foreigner by just by looking at, at, at what you look like.
Right. And, and whereas, you know, there are some other people that are, that, that look white, that they are like first generation, second generation, but yet they, they appear more American than you [01:19:00] do. So I think, you know, in, in terms of a legacy, you know, I would like to leave that legacy that we brought.
The, the Asian American story, you know, through east west players and east west players, I believe is celebrating its 56th anniversary. you know, and, and, and that, and the fact that we are, you know, emphasizing or billboarding the, the Asian American story I think is, is really important. And, and to tell you the truth, you know, there are some other, there are some other organizations that, that are, that are having to deal with this.
I mean, you know, the JCC, is having to deal with, yeah, there is the, you know, the, the fourth and fifth generations now, and those of mixed heritage, you know, you know, how is it that, that their story is being told? Same thing with the, national museum, you know, that, that, you know, there are. There are so many exhibitions to cover.
Now, you know, it’s a, that, [01:20:00] that, you know, you wish that the, that the national museum where it was, you know, 10 times larger than what it is, just because there are so many different stories. I mean, you know, I was there when they were doing, you know, their hello kitty exhibition and the, you know, the tattoo exhibition.
there’s just so much, so much Japanese influence on the world. you know, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s just amazing, but, but again, you know, that would be, the legacy would be, you know, the, the Japanese and the Asian American story.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. And I actually didn’t ask you before. What is your ethnic background?
Tim Dang: I’m actually Chinese from Hawaii.
Masami Moriya: Y ed N what generation?
Tim Dang: I’m actually third generation on one side, fourth generation on the other. So my, my, ancestors came over as plantation workers back in the 1880s, from what would be known as Canton, but now it’s a Gwangju. So it’s, from [01:21:00] growing Jo China and they found their way to Hawaii. You know, they probably got lost.
They were probably going to San Francisco, but they got lost and ended up in Hawaii, which is, you know, I think a far better place because, you know, somehow I, I am more agreeable with the tropical climate, so, you
Masami Moriya: I’m wondering now I’m wondering EFA. Our ancestors have met because my great, great grandparents also came from Japan to Hawaii and did plantation work. My great-grandfather was a, he learned how to build dynamite and he, the irrigation from the mountains, to farm that. Yeah. And then he brought it to California.
And so he did it there too.
Tim Dang: Wow. Yeah,
Masami Moriya: wanting those things.
Tim Dang: so totally possible.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. And I’m sure they did everything in the 1920s, plantation strike as well. I’m sure. There’s always, always a history of things. that’s cool. And oh, last and last up, but you know, if you weren’t in the entertainment industry, what would you be doing?
Tim Dang: Oh, well, you know, it was, I think this was a last minute decision for me to switch to, to [01:22:00] becoming a theater major. So I think I was prepping myself to probably be, an engineer or to be in physics. and so I’d probably be very boring if, if. If I didn’t go into the entertainment industry, but it was kind of like a last minute thing in senior year of high school in terms of, you know, okay.
I’m, you know, I’m going to go into math and physics because I was really good at it. And, but somehow things were just not settled with What I wanted to do?
And so that’s when,you know, I had asked my advisor at that time, you know, in terms of, you know, what are some of the good, performing arts schools on the west coast, you know?
So it was like, kind of like Seattle, you know,university, university of Washington, USC, UCLA, and somewhere in San Francisco, I don’t know which one, but, but Yeah, I I’d probably be an engineer. I know a boring
Masami Moriya: no, no, I think I can rephrase the question. [01:23:00] Like what would you be wanting to do? I think a lot of people I’ve talked to, like, how long do you cook a chef? I would have done being a chef because that’s, what I would want to do is there’s another, profession that good. I feel like you are going to be in that profession.
You were just kind of like, I was going to be a rocket scientist. Like I didn’t want to do math and computers were like, I’m going to go to visual effects. And I started out that way, but you know, for me, if I didn’t do film entertainment, I would, I would love to own a food truck. I have some great recipes I love to cook.
Tim Dang: Oh really? Okay. You know what?
Masami Moriya: that you would have loved to
Tim Dang: You’re not actually there. I don’t think there is then, you know, I, you know, my entire family has said to me, Tim, you are the only person that is actually doing what you wanted to do and cause everyone else, you know, they, they found a job or whatever, but it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted to do.
I, I think That’s why, You know, w when I, when I made the decision, when I was a senior in high school, that something just wasn’t sitting right, and going into math and physics and, and, and what was, [01:24:00] what was it that, that was bringing me joy was, was the whole idea. And again, you know, Hawaii. And so you’ve probably been to Hawaii a lot.
The whole idea of, of ho of Hawaii is, you know, the whole idea of, of culture, of, of song and dance, you know, the, you know, the, the Melay and, and the, and the hula. And so that has always fascinated me. And so I think that that’s where I got that connection to the arts was probably, you know, being raised in Hawaii and, and listening to that.
So, so that’s what made, that’s what gave me. was what I was like in a show or something like that. And so I wanted to continue that joy. So I’m, I’m actually doing what I want to do,
you know yeah. And, and, and very happy still, you know, a million years later.
Masami Moriya: Well, Tim, this has been really incredible conversation. I thank you for your insights and your wisdom here and the extra time. this was a men, it’s an income conversation. We can’t wait for our [01:25:00] audiences to listen and tune in, and hear about it. But thank you so much for all that you’ve done and left the legacies you’ve left, but also just joining us in podcast today.
Tim Dang: Well, well, I’m glad that I could share my experiences with, with everyone and thanks for inviting me.
Masami Moriya: No, my pleasure. All right, Tim. Thank you so much.
Tim Dang: Thanks.
Masami Moriya: I am going to stop it. You can stay on.