Founded by David Rhee and Erik Kaiko in 2017, the mission of Token Theatre is “to assert the presence and significance of Asian American artists as vital to the fabric of American theatre.”
Token Theatre is committed to supporting Asian American artists by doing the following: Amplifying Asian American voices and stories about the Asian American experience; creating opportunities for Asian artists on-stage and off-stage; producing classic plays and musicals through an Asian American lens with Asian American artists, as well as developing new work that focuses on the Asian American Experience; proactively inviting new audiences to our theatre; employing technology and new methods of storytelling and communication; encouraging artists to stake new creative territories by pushing Asian American theatre beyond easily identifiable markers using traditional and non-traditional Eastern and Western forms of storytelling; and working to develop, foster and expand Asian American theatre into a major force in the national arts landscape.
From the Artistic Director:
“On February 14, 2012, The New York Times published an article titled, Why Do Asian-Americans Go Uncast in New York Theater? In it, Patrick Healy writes, ‘Over the past five theater seasons Asian-American actors were cast in 2% of the roles in Broadway and major Off Broadway productions…’ There it was. Only 2% of the roles in the New York theatre community included actors of Asian descent.
“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. 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 all together, 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. So in 2015, I began my MFA at The Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing program at New York University, and I slowly saw myself regaining my sense of self by writing my stories.
“While working on my MFA, the phenomenon known as Hamilton burst onto Broadway, 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.
“Managing Director Erik Kaiko and I both agreed that true change comes when Asian Americans take on leadership roles within the theatre community, and where we make the decisions that forces us to be part of the cultural narrative. We both felt that the Asian American community is generally left out of the diversity dialogue, so what better way to fill that gap than start an Asian American theatre company to produce both classic and new works, embracing technology and Eastern strands of story telling. So began Token Theatre.”
Token Theatre, which also includes Founding Board Members Stephenie Park and Helen Young, is excited to announce its inaugural season, which includes a transformative spin on Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town and a New Play by Artistic Director David Rhee.