May 1 begins Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a month honoring AAPI culture, history, and achievement in the United States. To commemorate the month, Mean Girls star Riza Takahashi and photographer Rebecca J. Michelson collaborated with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to honor 30 AAPI artists in the New York theatre community with a photo shoot in Washington Square Park celebrating Asian joy.
For Takahashi, the project was an opportunity to honor artists who have shaped the theatre community onstage and off and influence future generations of AAPI theatremakers.
“With everything going on in the world, and the rise of hate crimes against Asians since the pandemic hit, our hearts have been heavy for our community. However, instead of focusing on people making us feel diminished, I wanted to shine a light on how beautiful we all are and lift our spirit up by celebrating the AAPI community on Broadway,” she explains. “Now more than ever, it is important for us to showcase the brilliant, colorful artists who light up our community. Also, May is AAPI Heritage Month! I created this project to encourage everyone to ‘Celebrate Asian Joy’ with open hearts and raise awareness for AAPI Heritage Month.
“To me, having Asian representation on Broadway means broadening inclusivity. I remember watching Every Little Step in college. Seeing a Japanese actor, Yuka Takara from Japan, on stage gave me such hope to know that there is a space for someone like me. I want the younger generation of AAPI artists to feel like they belong and that there is space for them on Broadway—not just by seeing one token Asian person, but by seeing many AAPI members on Broadway. However, having Asian representation is only one of the steps Broadway needs to take toward inclusivity. I hope that Black, Latino, LBGTQ+, and other minority and marginalized groups can be represented on Broadway, and that diversity is fully embraced and executed."