For our end-of-year giving campaign, East West Players (EWP) presents stories from our diverse community of supporters, who share about their involvement and why they give to support EWP.

david-and-sallyEast West Players shepherds the future of theater

by David and Sally Unruh

We’ve been involved with East West Players (EWP) for only a couple of years, but we already feel like members of an extraordinary multicultural family. Every EWP event has become an opportunity to build new relationships and, for David, to renew some old ties to UCLA.

Each production we’ve seen has been phenomenal—shining a new light on themes of love, relationships, parenthood, and aging through the lens of underrepresented cultures. There is no better lens through which to see the future of theater in Los Angeles and beyond than EWP.

Like most theater patrons, we’ve generally seen a single performance of a play and then waited for the next production. When EWP Development Manager Monika Ramnath asked if we were interested in attending a first rehearsal of Kentucky, we hesitated a bit—would it be worth the slow crawl weeknight drive to Little Tokyo from Sherman Oaks? Would we feel out of place?

Snehal Desai and the EWP crew not only made us feel welcome, but our pre-rehearsal conversation also gave us more insight into the growth of EWP and the new threads being woven into this already colorful cloth.

We are both fascinated by the creative process and the evolution of ideas over time. That said, the first rehearsal itself was a revelation—a bit more structured than expected, more serious, and already more nuanced than we imagined it would be. Apparently comedy is hard work and serious business.

I think we’ve seen bits and pieces of our lives in every EWP production but this is especially true for Kentucky. Sally knows the dynamics of complicated family relationships and what it means to bridge cultures. For David, this first rehearsal glimpse of characters in the play looked an awful lot like his childhood in a small, all-white, religiously homogeneous town in Kansas.

We cannot wait to see the full production of Kentucky and continue to give to support EWP’s incredible productions—and encourage you to do the same.


David Unruh is a lifelong educator and entrepreneur. After 30 years of creating new academic programs at UCLA, he retired and began several new educational ventures. He recently founded a new boarding high school in Downtown Los Angeles and is now focused on international work in the non-profit sector—most importantly, a film competition on “Being a Refugee” open to high school students around the world.

Sally Pai Unruh was born in Taiwan and raised in Japan. Her work in the financial sector is what brought her to Los Angeles in the 1990s. She has also lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, Taipei, and New York. She recently served as Director of Advancement for USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Her commitment to international and community affairs is reflected through participation in the Santa Monica Rotary Club, the Beverly Hills Women’s Club, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.