Report from CAATA 2014 ConFest

In October 2014, Artists at Play founding members Julia Cho and Marie-Reine Velez attended the National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival hosted by the Consortium for Asian American Theaters & Artists (CAATA). As part of the conference, they organized and led a breakout session: 
Developed by Artists at Play, a theatre-producing collective based in Los Angeles, this session will engage both emerging and existing artists/leaders in conversations that will bring us together and plan out ideas of succession and partnership. Within the national Asian American theatre community, there is much information to be shared and utilized by veterans and up-and-comers alike. This highly participatory session will include discussions about fostering mentorship and collaboration as well as how to avoid burnout yet maintain sustainability. Here’s to “bridging the gap” among currently existing generations and beyond!
Many thanks to all the attendees/participants. Below are the notes and report from our session.


Intergenerational Communication and Partnership in Asian American Theatre
2014 National Asian American Theatre Conference Session Facilitators’ Report

Document Overview: This document offers a summary of the ideas, action items, and data that was generated at the MINDING THE GAP session at the National Asian American Theatre Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

Team: The session organizers were Julia Cho (Artists at Play), Marie-Reine Velez (Artists at Play, TeAda Productions, USC Visions and Voices), Victor Maog (Second Generation Productions) and Candace L. Feldman (651 ARTS). Julia and Marie served as the overall session facilitators, time- keepers and supported each team member in this capacity. Julia, Marie, Victor and Candace facilitated each of their small group discussions and supported the overall facilitation of the session.

Session Overview:
Minding the Gap: Intergenerational Communication and Partnership in Asian American Theatre took place on Friday, October 10, 2014 from 4:30 pm- 6:00 pm. There were approximately 25 participants that attended the session. The group ranged in age and race, but were primarily of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) population.

The session convened with the group gathering in a circle and Victor leading off quick introductions, (name, location, affiliation). Julia briefly went over the origins of the session, and Marie reviewed the session’s goals. Candace then led a grounding exercise to bring the group together in one accord and established ground rules for the space. Then we commenced to break into four small groups, each lead by one of the facilitators. We had 40 minutes dedicated to dig deep into each topic and create tangible action items that the group could take back into their organization or personal practice. After the 40-minute breakout sessions, we convened everyone together in a large group and shared the information gleaned from the groups. We closed the session with an evaluation process session using a plus/ delta model.

Program/ Marketing Session Blurb
Minding the Gap: Intergenerational Communication and Partnership in Asian American Theatre
Developed by Artists at Play, a theatre-producing collective based in Los Angeles, session aims to ignite conversations with both emerging and existing artists/leaders to come together and plan out ideas of succession and partnership. Within the national Asian American theatre community, there is much information to be shared and utilized by veterans and up-and-comers alike. Discussing how we can foster mentorship and collaboration as well as how to avoid burnout yet maintain sustainability, here's to "bridging the gap" among currently existing generations and beyond.

Goal(s) of Session:

To have open transparent discussions about ideas of partnership and succession within the Asian American theatre community. To seek answers and establish actionable items in response to questions, including:
  • What are the challenges that new leaders face as they break into the AAPI theatre community?
  • What are the needs of the next generation of leaders?
  • What are practices best applied in terms of work, organization, and sustainability?
  • What are the systems that are working for younger theatremakers?

4:30 pm: Survey, Introductions, Welcome
4:45 pm: Overview of Session, Goals, Individual Breakout Discussions
5:00 – 5:40 pm: Small Group Conversations
5:45 pm: Report Out from Groups
6:00 pm: Plus/Delta Discussion, Wrap Up

Small Group Break-Out: There were four small groups, each focused on a particular issue. The first group facilitated by Victor Maog asked the question, “Do I Belong Here?” explored the issues of Participation and Identity. The second group was facilitated by Candace Feldman and focused on Succession, asking the questions “Are You Ready? Who’s Ready?” The third group facilitated by Julia Cho focused on Burnout and Sustainability. The fourth group facilitated by Marie-Reine Velez focused on Cross-Cultural Systems.


“Do I Belong Here?”

  1. What are the perceived roadblocks faced by those in the AAPI theatre community?
    1. Identities are splintered. One group doesn’t necessarily support the other.
      • Groups do not necessarily aid or support other ethnic groups, hence the concept of a unified front is weakened.
    2. Inward-looking, much of the work doesn’t travel to other parts of the U.S. or internationally
      • Due to costs, interests, and business models, AAPI productions do not reach other communities, limiting its scope and recognition
    3. Low funds
    4. Low profile
    5. Limited industry power
    6. Biases towards the work
    7. Seen as limiting themselves (also who’s limiting them)
      • Some artists do not think of AAPI theaters as the “end”, but rather a stepping stone to mainstream work
    8. Seen as a white person’s image of role
      • Some artists believe that participating in such a narrow field relegates AAPI to artistic and financial ghettos
    9. Lack of opportunities/invisibility

  1. How do we close in the gaps?
    1. Serve each other
      • We must actively find a way to build coalitions nationally, like CAATA, but also locally.
      • Participate in non-AAPI organizations and give voice to our concerns
    2. Identify outward looking practitioners and funders with passion
      • Partner with mainstream theaters and funders who already exhibit a track record of diversity and inclusion
      • Communicate with organizations who are reviewing their current business model and have expressed a need to diversify their clientele and engage with their community
    3. Intent to “Create Names"
      • Aim to create recognizable artists through repeated casting and multiple productions of playwright’s work. It’s the only way some of our artists will gain experience and exposure
    4. Connect internet with the theater to widen its reach
    5. Find a “spokesperson”
    6. Advocacy through philanthropy
    7. Utilize excitement of Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan in strategy around U.S. works



“Are You Ready? Who’s Ready? How to Get Ready.”

1.  How to remove FEAR from the equation
    1. What is the fear?
      1. Idea of what is next pertaining to the person in leadership
      2. For the organization, again the person in leadership. Did I leave it in good health? Cash reserve?
      3. The successor – burden of the responsibility “Can I rise?”
      4. ‘I’m afraid to communicate my interest.’
    2. Possible solutions
      1. For the leader “Leaving the organization”
        1. Find people or organizations that have done it well.
    3. Transition committee
    4. How to prepare: pensions, consultants, financial plans
      1. For the Successor
        1. Mentoring is Key (not the same as coaching
          1. Structured opportunities for learning
          2. Cultivates leadership
          3. Mentorship is organic
          4. Mentors Values are in line with the organization’s values
          5. Reciprocal
          6. Time is varies with all mentors
          7. Look for similarities in career path, values and authenticity
“Every single word you say is being listened to.”

  1. What is the torch?
    1. Be honest about what the torch is. Be honest about what you are handing down and what the next leader is inheriting.
    2. Build in an interim period of time for that person.
    3. Overall flexibility - doesn’t have to be the exact same torch. Talk about it, discuss it.
    4. Are you ready to hold the torch? Do you have a strong foundation within the organization? Do you share the same goals? Know your truth and be ready for an honest answer.

  1. Legacy change and transition (or lack there of)
    1. There is funding for succession planning/training through conferences, professional development, staff/development grants, part of the organization’s strategic plan.



  1. Reassessing challenges, seeking renewal/rejuvenation
    1. Limited resources and constraints
      1. Can be assets too, leading to creativity
      2. Necessitate fostering relations with advocates in community
    2. Balance in work vs personal lives (or lack thereof)
      1. Sacrifices
      2. When do the challenges motive/hinder you?
      3. When do you walk away?
    3. In the arts, people more personally motivated
      1. Build in personal time away, time for self, time to "veg out"
    4. Lack luxury of self-assessment
      1. Allowing others to understand our work/art
      2. Not as valued in society
    5. Gender difference?
      1. Work in arts similar to energy of parenting

  1. Remembering the 'WHY'
    1. The work, the art that is created
      1. Touching people in ways other fields cannot
      2. The immediacy, unknowing of beginning and end, is exciting
    2. Collaboration --> Engagement
    3. Keep asking, always important
      1. This was a calling
    4. Keep in mind perspective of audience.
      1. Our work is meant to be shared.

  1. Actionable items
    1. Work with/for like-minded people/organizations
    2. Seek/exercise strong leadership
    3. Work with more diverse team, w/ different skill sets, different backgrounds
      1. Stay open to all perspectives (incl. international)
    4. Civil discourse = In-person meetings
      1. "Interdisciplinary collaboration" involves groundwork

  1. Fostering our successors, the next generation
    1. Provide part-time positions/ internships
    2. Welcome back those who have left
      1. Not losing to for-profits
    3. Take the time to fine right match
      1. Needs to be mutually beneficial



What resource systems currently exist within the API theatre community and beyond?
  1. Mentor/Mentee programs and relationships - menthes can seek advice
  2. Community partnerships - can help with developing plays and new work
    1. Examples from the group
      1. Service organizations
      2. LGBT community organizations
      3. Latino community groups
      4. Immigration policy advocates/lobby groups
      5. Hmong community: elders, community organizations
  3. Theatre Education - learning/passing on oral histories
    1. Example given: Apollo Theatre (NYC)

What are the obstacles we face when we want to ask for help?
  1. Afraid to ask for help - feeling too timid / fear of rejection
  2. Not knowing what to ask for specifically
  3. Thinking beyond the API community
  4. Not knowing the timetables to do strategic outreach
  5. Lack of capacity
    1. Implementation tools for executing outreach effectively
    2. Access to physical space
  6. The time and money involved in the development stage / under-resourced
    1. Cost of making art
    2. Value of goals
    3. Finding Grants
    4. Pro bono work can be endless
  7. Realizing the need of building a community audience
    1. Lack of responses from leaders
    2. Burning out resources
    3. Need more knowledge of resources
    4. Disconnect between theatre world and outreach world
  8. Theatre may not be of importance to communities we are reaching
  9. Ignorance / structural racism - What do I have to learn?
    1. Bias in representation

How can we help each other in the API theatre community/network?
  1. Build a transparent process system
    1. Artist exchanges
    2. Touring writing lab
  2. Centralized resource guide of all the information about all the organizations involved with CAATA - a guide of what everyone has to offer
  3. Strengthen CAATA’s publicity and marketing
  4. Tapping into the national network of arts presenting
    1. Getting around competition vs. community support
    2. Create Top 5/10 list(s) of college/arts presenters around the country - empower the touring artists who can compile this list
  5. Building smaller convenings to strengthen infrastructure
  6. Successful artists/administrators as consultants to CAATA to share best practices
    1. “Partnership tank”
    2. Take responsibility to bring in others’ best practices
  7. Existing resource: Next Generation Emerging Arts Leaders - Monthly curated conversation and conference calls
  8. Schedule “work nights” instead of conference calls or meetings via Google Hangout or Skype
  9. Find funding source for prep time

Additional Questions/Concerns/Comments:
After mini-discussion report-outs, during reconvening of large group
  1. Training people who end up leaving
    1. Paying people what they are worth
    2. Welcome former employees to come back
    3. If there was a perfect nonprofit structure, what would it look like?

Session Evaluation: After reviewing all four small group discussions, all attendees continued the conversation by adding to certain topics and evaluating the session as a whole.

The extended amount of discussion time was a plus and should be kept regarding the session. Some things that could be improved upon or implemented for next time include the following:
  • Track the conversation, perhaps on the CAATA website.
  • Establish more national work group session to get the assignments done, instead of relying on people to do work in-between meetings.
  • Talk about structural issues within organizations
  • Integrate opportunities for participants to suggest questions and topics of discussion.

Survey Results:
Out of 13 survey responses completed and turned in


Under 30: 7% (1 response)
30-39: 46% (6 responses)
40-49: 7% (1 response)
50-59: 15% (2 responses)
60 and over: 15% (2 responses)
decline to state: 7% (1 response)


Asian/API: 15%
Black: 7%
Caucasian: 7%
Chinese American: 15%
Filipino/Filipino American: 23%
Japanese/Japanese American: 15%
Korean American: 15%

Under 40:
Asian/API: 28%
Chinese American: 14%
Filipino/Filipino American: 28%
Korean American: 28%

40 and over:
Caucasian: 20%
Chinese American: 20%
Filipino/Filipino American: 20%
Japanese/Japanese American: 40% 


High School: 7%
BA: 46%
BFA: 7%
MA: 15%
MBA: 7%
MFA: 7%
PhD: 7%

Under 40:
High School: 14%
BA: 42%
MA: 14%
MFA: 14%
PhD: 14%

40 and over:
BA: 40%
BFA: 20%
MA: 20%
MBA: 20%

Education Based on Race/Ethnicity:
High School
Chinese American 100% ← based on one response
Asian/API 33%
Black 16%
Filipino 16%
Japanese/Japanese American 33%
Chinese American 100% ← based on one response
Caucasian 50%
Filipino American 50%
Korean American 100% ← based on one response
Filipino 100% ← based on one response
Korean American 100% ← based on one response

Job Title:
Under 40:
Student/Headshot photographer
Teaching Artist
Production Manager/Artist
General Manager
Production and Marketing Assistant
Writer/Performance Artist/Teaching Artist
Resident Dramaturg

40 and over:
Producing Artistic Director
Executive Director


PT: 23%
FT: 70%
Both: 7%

Under 40:
PT: 37.5%
FT: 62.5%

40 and over:
PT: 20%
FT: 80%


Under 40:
Under $30,000: 14%
$30,000-39,000: 14%
$40,000-49,000: 57%
$50,000 and over: 14%

40 and over:
most decline to state

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