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News Briefs

By May 24, 2024June 14th, 2024No Comments

East West Players Announces Lily Tung Crystal as New Artistic Director
Lily Tung Crystal will become the next artistic director of East West Players, one of the nation’s oldest theaters of color and the largest producer of Asian American theatrical works. She is joined by Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins as the historic theater company, founded in 1965, implements a co-leadership model in anticipation of its 60th anniversary season in Los Angeles. “The East West Players Board is excited to introduce Lily to the East West Players community and to welcome her back to L.A., her first hometown,” shared EWP Board Chair Rose Chan Loui. “ … Lily stood out for her impressive portfolio of artistic work, her cohesive vision for EWP and her strong leadership and management skills. We know she will be greatly missed by Theater Mu and the Minnesota community, but we are thrilled for EWP to be her new artistic home.” Crystal will become EWP’s fifth artistic director, succeeding Snehal Desai, who departed the company in summer 2023 to become the artistic director of Center Theatre Group. “I’m humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to lead the nation’s largest Asian American theater company and the longest-running theater of color,” said Crystal. “My life’s work has centered on the intersection of art and social justice; increasing representation of Asian American and other marginalized artists on stage and in TV and film; and telling more Asian American stories.”

Barbie Status for Skater Kristi Yamaguchi
Ice skating icon Kristi Yamaguchi — a world champion figure skater, 1992 Olympic gold medalist and winner of TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” — now has another accolade. Mattel, the maker of the ever-popular Barbie doll and other toys, has announced a Kristi Yamaguchi Barbie as part of its “Inspiring Women Series.” Associated Press quotes Yamaguchi as saying, “It’s a huge, huge honor.”

Pulitzer Win for Film Critic Justin Chang
The Pulitzer Prize Board on May 6 awarded former Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang a Pulitzer Prize in the criticism category. The article, titled “‘Oppenheimer’ doesn’t show us Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s an act of rigor, not erasure,” defended director Christopher Nolan’s choice to not include in his Oscar-winning movie any depiction of effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Chang left the newspaper for the New Yorker magazine.

JANM Taps Kenyon Mayeda as Chief Impact Officer
The Japanese American National Museum has hired Kenyon Mayeda to serve as its chief impact officer, effective on April 1. His résumé includes stints at the Japanese Community Youth Council, Cathay Bank and advertising agency TDW+Co, where he was a senior account executive and later vp of operations. His ties to JANM date back to 2004, when he was a JANM intern. He currently serves as the Southern California Regional chair for the U.S.-Japan Council.

Paul Nakasone Is JAVA’s New Honorary Chair
The Japanese American Veterans Assn. has announced that retired Army Gen. Paul Nakasone will serve as its honorary chair. He is the former commander of United States Cyber Command.

Rafu’s Mario Reyes Retires
Mario Gershom Reyes, who had worked for L.A.-based Japanese American community newspaper Rafu Shimpo since the 1980s, mainly as a photographer, was feted with a “sayonara party,” held May 14 at the St. Francis Xavier Japanese Catholic Center for his retirement. In 2019 at the Pacific Southwest District JACL luncheon, Reyes was honored with a Community Service Award. (See here.)

Cardenas Honors PSW’s Nancy Takayama
In a March 21 speech to the House of Representatives in commemoration of Women’s History Month, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) called out several denizens of his San Fernando Valley district for recognition. Among them was Nancy Takayama, vice governor of the JACL’s Pacific Southwest District and immediate past president of the San Fernando Valley JACL chapter, for her actions in “preserving the rich history and legacy of Japanese Americans in the region.” Other individuals also recognized were Mary Helen Ponce, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Ruby Flores, Los Angeles City Councilmember Imelda Padilla, Nicole Chase and Ginny Hatfield. (Video of Cárdenas’ remarks maybe viewed at, beginning at the 6:35:00 mark.)

Prison for Anti-Asian Hate Assailant
The Department of Justice announced May 6 that Steve Lee Dominguez, 58, was sentenced by District Judge Otis D. Wright II to 12 months in federal prison for disrupting a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in March 2021 in Diamond Bar, Calif., by “running a red light and driving through a crowded crosswalk of peaceful demonstrators while shouting racial slurs and epithets.”

LAPD Shoots, Kills Asian Man
The parents of Yong Yang, 40, who was shot to death inside their Koreatown apartment on May 2, later held a news conference to question the use of deadly force by Los Angeles Police Department officers. According to the victim’s mother, Myung Sook Yang, her son was experiencing a “severe bipolar episode” and had been struggling with mental health issues. According to an L.A. Times report, the father, Min Yang, said the Dept. of Mental Health clinician “spent less than two minutes” with Yang before calling in the LAPD. A little more than two weeks after the incident, LAPD released bodycam video of its officers’ interaction with Yong Yang, who can be seen with a knife in his left hand. He was shot while approaching the officers after failing to comply with orders to drop it.