PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
Pictured: David Rhee
The newly formed Token Theatre has announced the company’s inaugural season, with a mission “to assert the presence and significance of Asian American artists as vital to the fabric of American theatre.”
On February 14, 2012, The New York Times published an article titled “Why Do Asian-Americans Go Uncast in New York Theater?,” in which Patrick Healy writes that “over the past five theater seasons Asian-American actors were cast in 2% of the roles in Broadway and major Off Broadway productions.” That was a turning point for Token’s Artistic Director and co-founder David Rhee. “In my own career as a performer, I was nearly broken on several occasions. I grew fatigued by the constant excuses that theaters threw at me, and I became frustrated by the people in power taking away my humanity by forcing me to play the ‘sidekick’ or the ‘token’ in one show after another,” he said. “Frustrated with running on the endless treadmill of ‘Asian’ shows, I decided I needed to make a change. It came down to three choices: leave the business altogether, keep my mouth shut and take the limited choices of shows that were being offered to me, or write and produce work for the Asian American community.”
The 2-show season will include a production of Thorton Wilder’s OUR TOWN, and a new play by Rhee entitled AND JESUS WEPT. The company looks to support Asian American artists by amplifying the Asian American experience and creating opportunities both on stage and off for Asian artists, under the leadership of Rhee, along with Managing Director Erik Kaiko with Founding Board Members Stephenie Park and Helen Young, and Artistic Associates Cheryl Hamada and Steve Scott.
“While working on my MFA, the phenomenon known as HAMILTON burst onto Broadway,” Rhee continued, “and within a single season, the rules of the game seemed to change. Producers saw that diversity sells and that people like seeing themselves onstage. There was a paradigm shift in the air.”
To learn more about Token Theatre, visit www.tokentheatre.net.