The East West Players
is the nation's premiere Asian American theater organization and the oldest continuously operating theatre of color in the country. You'll recognize the name of one of their founders and emeritus artistic directors: the late Makoto "Mako" Iwamatsu--the voice of Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
When EWP was founded in 1965, Asian Americans faced limited opportunities to play roles outside of stereotypical and often demeaning caricatures in mainstream American media, and many ethnically Asian roles were often given to white actors while Asian American actors were overlooked. In that respect, The Last Airbender
movie is simply the latest page in a long Hollywood history of lost opportunities.
After experiencing first-hand the discrimination Asian Americans faced in Hollywood, Mako and the other founding members created EWP to expand opportunities for Asian American actors, writers, directors, and producers. Over seventy-five percent of all Asian Pacific performers in the acting unions living in Los Angeles have worked at EWP, so it's no surprise that several members of the EWP family performed in the animated series, including:
- Dante Basco (as Prince Zuko), one of the stars in EWP's latest play, IXNAY.
- Tim Dang (Yon Rha, the man who murdered Katara's mother, in "The Southern Raiders"), EWP Producing Artistic Director
- George Takei (The Warden in "Imprisoned"), Chair of the EWP Council of Governors
- James Hong (The Mayor in "Avatar Day", an Air Nomad Monk in "The Storm"), EWP Founding Member
- Daniel Dae Kim (General Fong in "The Avatar State")
- Lauren Tom (as Joo Dee in the Season 2 Ba Sing Se story arc)
- James Sie (The Cabbage Merchant!)
- Sab Shimono (Monk Gyatso, Master Yu)
- Tayako Fischer (Lo and Li)
- Tsai Chin (The Fortuneteller)
The East West Players is currently running the world premiere of IXNAY
, a play that features an ensemble cast including actor Dante Basco
(Prince Zuko)! IXNAY is directed by Tim Dang (Yon Rha, "The Southern Raiders") and currently playing in the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles through March 15th. If you live in So-Cal and would like to see Dante Basco live on stage while supporting Asian American Talent, go to the EWP for info on tickets.
The Boulder has a soft spot for The East West Players since this theater troupe, and A:TLA
, are inextricable parts of Mako's legacy.