The LA Stage Alliance announced on Monday that it was immediately ceasing all operations after errors in the groups’ Ovation Awards show, including the misidentification of an Asian-American nominee that led to dozens of theaters being dismissed. their membership.
We have come to this conclusion with a heavy heart, our intention has always been to represent and promote the entire Los Angeles theater community, but at the moment we cannot continue, read the statement from the Board of Governors of LASA, which was founded 46 years ago. We believe in equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels. As individuals, we are committed to continuing to support this community that is close to our hearts.
The move comes less than a week after the ceremony on March 30 in which Jully Lees’ first name was mispronounced and a photo of a different Asian woman was displayed on screen. Many virtual viewers believed the errors fueled the stereotype that all Asians were alike, and others were offended that the organizers didn’t bother to learn how to say the names of the nominees (pronounce Julie). The LASA’s apology that immediately followed seemed insufficient to many theater leaders.
East West Players, one of the largest Asian American theater companies, was the first to revoke its membership in LASA, posting his statement on Instagram a day after the Ovation Awards. In the face of years of iniquity, the company called on other theaters to do the same. The #LeavingLASA hashtag was soon in rage, and by Monday morning at least 50 theaters, including some of the region’s biggest and most prestigious companies, had joined. LASA has claimed around 150 members in total.
East West Players artistic director Snehal Desai called LASA’s Monday announcement a disappointment. Instead of listening to theatrical communities calling for meaningful and necessary change, he said, LASA simply took his ball and went home.
What’s clear is that the LA theater community is very united and supportive, and that’s what’s going to drive the charge out of that, Desai said. LASA didn’t do that.
Theater executives said the problems with LASA were deep-rooted and numerous. Voting members were not diverse enough, some said; the board of governors was almost entirely white and the staff was all white. Small companies run by BIPOC artists have often been overlooked in favor of large white majority companies, critics said, and BIPOC companies did not receive the credit they deserved at the Ovation Awards because LASA did not. did not recognize the co-presenters. At the awards show last week, closed captioning was not offered even after being requested by Deaf West Theater. These issues, critics said, have been raised several times over the years but have never been resolved.
LASA’s 13-member Ovation Rules Committee, which was more diverse than the four-person board, sent a letter to the Los Angeles theater community over the weekend in which the members waived their volunteer positions. The committee said it was not consulted when setting up this year’s Ovation Awards, but accepted responsibility for the exclusionary practices of the awards, which the committee said it was trying to change.
It is clear that LASA is no longer worthy or even capable of serving this community and leading the Ovation Awards, the committee wrote. Now is the time for the community to come together and build a new arts service organization and awards program that truly befits this vibrant, diverse and extraordinary population of artists and leaders in the arts.
Cricket committee member Myers, a sound designer, elaborated in a statement to The Times.
It was a long time coming, she wrote. LASA was not the organization it had been for years. The ceremony just showed very publicly how distant they are from the community.
Moving forward, Desai said plans include a town hall, facilitated by an outside facilitator, to brainstorm ideas for the future and discuss what a fair, fully representative, and fair arts service organization should look like. responsive and whether such an organization should hold an awards ceremony. .
A true service organization is not focused on itself, nor on its own visibility or survival through rewards, Desai said. It focuses on uplifting the community.
It is possible that instead of centralizing all power in a single organization, like LASA, several organizations are needed. Now is the time to focus on what a new model might look like, Desai said, because once theaters start to reopen, all the energy will be needed to bring audiences back on stage.
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