Photos: Riza Takahashi, Rebecca J. Michelson and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Celebrate Asian Joy Featuring Portraits of 30 AAPI New York Theatre Artists

I’m kicking off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month as part of a portrait series produced by Mean Girls star Riza Takahashi and photographer Rebecca J. Michelson, in collaboration with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The series features 30 AAPI New York theatre artists across disciplines. The photoshoot in New York City’s Washington Square Park was stage managed by Benjamin A. Vigil. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates AAPI culture, history, and achievement in the United States.

The artists featured in the portrait series include Violinist/Music Coordinator Tomoko Akaboshi, Actor Aaron J. Albano, Actor Belinda Allyn, Performer/Director Billy Bustamante, Actor/Filmmaker/Photographer Lia Chang, Musical Director/Orchestrator Steven Cuevas, Actor Ali Ewoldt, Actor/Performer Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Actor Cailen Fu, Violinist Fung Chern Hwei, Sound Designer Kai Harada, Actor/Performer Joomin Hwang, Electronic Music Designer Hiro Iida, Actor/Performer Sabrina Imamura, Music Director Chris Kong, Performer/Dancemaker/Teaching Artist Courtney Kristen Liu, Music Director/Pianist Cynthia Meng, Costumer Jana Morimoto, Writer/Music Director J. Oconer Navarro, Actor/Performer Stephanie Jae Park, Actor/Performer Robert Pendilla, Artistic Collaborator Angelo Soriano, Actor Pearl Sun, Actor/Performer Sam Tatsuo Tanabe, Actor/Founder of Broadway to Japan Riza Takahashi, Stage Manager Cherie B. Tay, Performer/Fitness Professional Christopher Vo, Actor Erica Wong, Writer/Director Jessica Wu and Performer/Founder of YU-project Minami Yusui. 

Behind the Scenes- Actor/Producer Riza Takahashi, Stage Manager Cherie B. Tay and Photographer Rebecca J Michelson. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Behind the Scenes- Actor/Producer Riza Takahashi, Photographer Rebecca J Michelson and Stage Manager Cherie B. Tay. Photo by Lia Chang

“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.

Yuka Takara in the rehearsal room for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Red Bucket Follies opening number celebrating Asian-American actors on Broadway and commemorating the 60th anniversary of the groundbreaking Flower Drum Song on December 2, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang


“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.”

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I was delighted to be included as part of the celebration, courtesy of Valerie Lau-Kee, Producing Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Scroll down to see these gorgeous Asian American faces captured by Rebecca J. Michelson. 

Lia Chang, Actor/Filmmaker/Photographer/Journalist 

Minami Yusui, Performer/Founder of YU-project (Love Life, My Fair Lady, Chess, Miss Saigon, The King and I)

Cailen Fu, Actor (Mean Girls)

Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Actor/Performer (The Lion King, In the Heights

Pearl Sun, Actor (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, If/Then, and Come From Away)

Ali Ewoldt, Actor (The Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Les Miserables)

Stephanie Jae Park, Actor/Performer (Hamilton Tour, War Paint, The King and I)

Sabrina Imamura, Actor/Performer (Hamilton)

Chris Vo, Performer/Fitness Professional (The Cher Show, Chess, Miss Saigon, The King and I, On the Town, Kung Fu)

Aaron Albano, Actor (Hamilton Tour, Allegiance, Cats, Newsies, Bombay Dreams, The King and I, A Chorus LineThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Mary Poppins)

Erica Wong, Actor (The Phantom of the Opera, M. Butterfly, The King and I)

Sam Tanabe, Actor/Performer (Allegiance)

Robert Pendilla, Actor/Performer (Wicked, Miss Saigon, Kinky Boots)

Belinda Allyn, Actor/Performer (Allegiance)

Jessica Wu, Writer/Director (Miss Saigon, Sayonara, A Chorus Line

Angelo Soriano, Artistic Collaborator

Joomin Hwang, Actor/Performer (The Prom, KPOP)

Courtney Kristen Liu, Performer/Dancemaker/Teaching Artist (The Phantom of the Opera)

Fung Chern Hwei, Violinist

Steven Cuevas, Music Director/Orchestrator (Once on this Island)

Jana Morimoto, Costumer

Tomoko Akaboshi, Violinist/Music Coordinator (Unknown Soldier, A Strange Loop)

Cherie Tay, Stage Manager (Hadestown, Amelie)

Hiro Iida, Electronic Music Designer 

Kai Harada, Sound Designer (Soft Power, Broadway: Amelie; Sunday in the Park With George; Allegiance; Gigi; Fun Home; On the Town; First Date; Follies, and Million Dollar Quartet)

Cynthia Meng, Music Director/Pianist (Company, Hadestown)

Billy Bustamante, Performer/Director (Soft Power, Miss Saigon, Here Lies Love)

J. Oconer Navarro, Writer/Music Director

Chris Kong, Music Director/Pianist (Allegiance)

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