Many of the region’s theaters, which had been speaking up in support of diversity, equity and inclusion, first in response to the unrest over racial injustice last summer, and then again in response to hate crimes this spring, followed suit.
“This was an inexcusable, terrible, unfortunate act, but it was also emblematic of a bigger failure of the LA Stage Alliance in the past few years,” said Danny Feldman, the producing artistic director at Pasadena Playhouse, who said the organization’s inadequacy had become more clear during the pandemic. “They lost the confidence of the community, and this was the tipping point.”
The LA Stage Alliance was a nonprofit, dating back to 1975, that sought to support theater in Los Angeles. In addition to overseeing the Ovation Awards, it maintained onStage:LA, a website with listings and ticket discounts and published a digital arts magazine called @This Stage.
Last summer the organization furloughed its staff; emails to the executive director, Marco Gomez, were answered by a publicist, Ken Werther, who said the leadership was declining to make any further comments.
Lee, in an interview on Monday, said she was uncomfortable being seen as the face of the controversy, but also upset about the events that had transpired.
- A torrent of hate and violence against people of Asian descent around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
- In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
- In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack, captured on video, has become a rallying cry.
- Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings on March 16. The suspect’s motives are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
- A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime in connection with a violent attack on a Filipino woman near Times Square on March 30. The attack sparked further outrage after security footage appeared to show bystanders failing to immediately come to the woman’s aid.
“I was trying to be brave, and trying not to make it a big deal,” she said. “But then, reading all the posts — all the anger and pain that was being expressed — I had to acknowledge that this is angering and painful and hurtful. And there have been so many attempts to try and get the LA Stage Alliance to be more inclusive, and they’ve largely been ignored.”
Deaf West Theater, the nation’s leading sign language theater, sought unsuccessfully to have this year’s Ovation ceremony interpreted for the deaf. “All of these oppressions go hand in hand,” said DJ Kurs, the theater’s artistic director. “We are all fighting the same fight, and we are fighting it together.”