Lily Tung Crystal Will Be East West Players' New Artistic Director | Playbill

Regional News Lily Tung Crystal Will Be East West Players' New Artistic Director

East West Players is one of the nation’s longest-running theatre companies of color, and the largest producer of Asian American Pacific Islander creative work.

Lily Tung Crystal Dani Werner

Lily Tung Crystal will lead Los Angeles theatre company East West Players (EWP) as their new Artistic Director, beginning with their 60th anniversary season.

The company, which is one of the nation’s longest-running theatre companies of color and the largest producer of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) creative work, was founded in 1965. Tung Crystal will be joined by Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins as the historic theatre company implements a co-leadership model.

“The East West Players Board is excited to introduce Lily to the East West Players community and to welcome her back to LA, her first hometown,” shared EWP Board Chair Rose Chan Loui. “The Search Committee was gratified to see how many qualified candidates applied for the artistic director position, as it demonstrated how much progress we have made as a community in developing AAPI talent. We were particularly pleased to see the number of outstanding Asian American women among the applicants. Out of this impressive field of candidates, 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.”

Lily Tung Crystal will be EWP’s fifth artistic director, succeeding Snehal Desai who departed the company in summer of 2023 to become the artistic director of Center Theatre Group. She previously served as the artistic director for Theater Mu, an organization based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with the mission of producing great performances born of arts, equity, and justice from the heart of the Asian American experience.

“I’m humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to lead the nation’s largest Asian American theatre company and longest-running theatre of color,” shared Tung 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. I’m looking forward to working with East West Players’ Managing Director Eugene J. Hutchins and its talented, committed, and welcoming staff, board, and artists to continue that work nationally in collaboration with artists and organizations across the country, including Theater Mu.”

“I’m grateful to both East West Players and Theater Mu for believing in me. This is a bittersweet moment because of my deep love for Mu and the Minnesotan theatre and Asian American communities. My heart is both happy and breaking. Mu has allowed me to do this work in a deep and joyful way with a group of truly incredible staff, board, theatre makers, and supporters. I’m thankful to them for giving me such a significant artistic and spiritual home.”

Tung Crystal is an accomplished director, actor, and artist. In addition to acting on Minneapolis, San Francisco, and New York stages, Tung Crystal has directed Jihae Park's peerless, Lauren Yee's Cambodian Rock Band (co-produced with the Jungle Theater), and the world premieres of Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay's The Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior & Cannibals and Jessica Huang and Jacinth Greywoode’s musical Blended (Harmony): The Kim Loo Sisters. For her directing work in San Francisco, she was thrice-named a Theatre Bay Area Award finalist for Outstanding Direction. 

“My vision for East West Players is to serve our communities, both locally and nationally, and fully represent the Asian-American diaspora in the narratives we tell, from Southwest and South Asian to Southeast and East Asian–American stories. We must also work intersectionally with other marginalized groups including queer or disabled communities, other communities of color, as well as women and non-binary artists. It’s our responsibility to nurture the next generation of Asian-American artists, both onstage and backstage. Additionally, with the vibrant multidisciplinary fabric of the arts in Los Angeles, my vision is for East West Players to explore the ways we can integrate film and video with theater. Personally, I’m also excited to continue my work as a performer at an institution founded by such trailblazing actors as Mako, Beulah Quo, and James Hong.”

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