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.
What it means to support a POC theater during these political times
by Leah Nanako Winkler (Playwright of Kentucky)
I carry so much pride having my work produced at East West Players (EWP)—the longest running theater of color in the nation—especially now. In an industry where “White People By The Water” plays (coined by Will Snider and referring to plays featuring affluent white people complaining about their problems in a big house by the water) are still considered “the best” and “universal”, and every theater is scrambling to get a younger diverse crowd due to fear of becoming irrelevant, EWP stands out and is more powerful than ever. Because they’re just doing it—and they’ve been doing it for 51 years.
That’s why when Snehal Desai called me to tell me that Kentucky would be included in their 51st Anniversary season celebrating women of color, I felt so honored and honestly, damn lucky. Being here right now really reaffirms how important theater can be in a world where differences are portrayed negatively.
When I walk into this theater, I am empowered and inspired. Any fear or dread I feel outside of these doors transforms into light that is palpable in this artistic sanctuary for diverse voices. Fostered by the staff, Snehal, Deena, and my amazing cast, crew, and designers, it’s an amazing feeling that none of us are the “other” in the room. Being around artists of color onstage and behind the scenes is something that hardly ever happens.
I’m thankful to be here as a writer, and thankful that I have room to shed light on a different Kentucky that is portrayed in the media—one filled with art and diversity and that represents a deeply flawed, mixed-race family as an American one. The Kentucky cast is so sweet, and it was amazing to be around people of color during the election. I’m proud and inspired by their energy—working through emotions backstage, giving it all onstage, and even going to protests before and after previews. What a wonderful introduction this has been to the LA theater community.
This is what EWP means to me—and right now, more than ever, we need dedicated spaces to tell these stories, where we don’t have to back pedal to explain everything or walk on eggshells hoping we don’t get in trouble for being an advocate—we’re advocates by default just by putting our bodies onstage and telling stories that aren’t necessarily defined by race. EWP is getting marginalized voices heard without filling some kind of “marginalized” slot in the season, and they’re getting butts in seats that a lot of NYC and regional theaters can’t figure out how to reach.
So please—continue to support them. Buy tickets, subscriptions, or donate however much you can. It means the world to writers like me, who have found an artistic home here. Working with EWP toward the common goal of expressing our humanity through the simple act of putting on a play has been both healing, emotional, and resonant. EWP is so important.