Hello, Thespians! I am Rosanna Gao,  a newly selected 2021-2022 International Thespian Officer (ITO). I attend Great Neck South High School (Troupe 7486) on Long Island, New York. My theatre experience includes performing, playwriting, and producing. In everything I do I strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in theatre spaces. 

I am a 17-year-old Chinese-American thespian, advocate, and entrepreneur, all of which has contributed to my passion for citizen artistry. My proximity to NYC and being Chinese American has influenced my experience in theatre. My mission includes advocating for BIPOC representation in theatre.

Rosanna Gao is a Chinese-American thespian, advocate, and entrepreneur, with a passion for advocating for BIPOC representation in theatre. She is a member of International Thespian Troupe 7486 at Great Neck South High School in New York.

Thanks to my heritage and because of its under-representation in theatre I created Music For Change, an international 501c3 nonprofit. Music For Change works to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive arts spaces through community events and concerts. As a resident of New York, I’ve realized that Broadway is the backyard to many NYC students, yet so many cannot afford to experience Broadway firsthand. My hope is to help create opportunities for anyone to experience and thrive in theatre, no matter their circumstances. 

I joined the Educational Theatre Association as a State Thespian officer. I’m now one of six and International Thespian Officers for the 2021-22 year. I got involved so that I could tap into the theatre network and impact schools around the world. I’ve reached out to New York Senators to share the reasons why we want Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) month given an official recognition. It is the first step necessary in our fight for funding for New York Art Programs. 

Peek Inside Rosanna Gao’s Independent Study Project

At my school, we are offered Independent Study classes so we can take on passion projects and work one on one with multiple teachers. I understand I am privileged to attend a highly funded school, and I value and use all the resources/opportunities my school offers. This project has helped me me connect my passions of writing, advocacy, theatre, and DEI. 

My research paper is about (under)representation of East-Asian Americans in theatre and on Broadway. I chose this topic because of my own ethnic makeup, and because of my passion to advocate for increasing DEI in theatre spaces. Being educated on the history and what is happening now, statistics, and representation in musicals helps me advocate to the best of my ability. Living so close to NYC, I have met people from all different races, genders, lifestyles, cultures, etc. However, only a few of those identities are represented on stage. I believe that theatre should showcase real-life characters and stories. We need to tell more stories that include BIPOC characters. Stories that represent a wide range of people. 

3 Big Benefits of Rosanna Gao’s Independent Study

  1. Practicing Time Management. This assignment is not graded nor is there any deadline. I had to take the initiative and make time to work on it. I created a timeline with set goals on specific dates. I spent time every day on the project.
  2. Improving Writing and Research Skills. Reading articles and other source materials let me explore well-researched writing which in turn helped improve my own writing.
  3. Chasing My Passions. No matter what we want to become: a dramaturg, or scientist, or even an NBA player, taking time exploring our passions gives us perspective. We learn new things about what we love. We gain perspective on what has been done and what there is still to do. We even learn more about ourselves as we chase our passions. Maybe we even find our career path!

5 Ways to Support East-Asian Americans 

Broaden your own understanding of East-Asian Americans and join me in my fight for greater DEI in theatre by doing some, or all, of these things: 

  1. Stream Asian-American musicians, artists, films, shows, etc. More streams can lead to success and more opportunities for these artists, which can lead to an increase of representation of East Asians in media. Below are just a few of my favorites:
  • Musicians/Singers: 
    • JinJoo Lee (Korean American) 
    • Zayn Malik (British Pakistani)
    • Awkwafina (Given name is Nora Lum; Chinese Korean American)
  • Movies:
    • Crazy Rich Asians
    • Minari 
    • The Joy Luck Club  
  • Authors:
    • Amy Tan (Chinese American)
    • Winnifred Eaton (A Canadian author and screenwriter of Chinese-British ancestry, she published under the Japanese pseudonym Onoto Watanna and under the name Winifred Reeve)
    • Min Jin Lee (Korean American)
  1. Avoid assumptions or stereotypes. Remember that everyone is unique in their own ways and their ethnicity does not define who they are. Learn about the history of anti-Asian racism to understand anti-Asian marginalization and hatred today. 
  1. Listen to the stories of East-Asian friends. Advocate and/or protest alongside them.
  1. Donate if you can, to organizations that support or combat inequality, hate crimes, and mental health. Examples: Stop AAPI Hate, Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus, Asian Mental Health Project, and the Anti-Defamation League. (https://www.adl.org/)
  1. Choose color-conscious casting which is defined as “taking into consideration the actor’s skin color, body shape, and other characteristics.” Fund, support, and produce BIPOC-written stories about and for their communities.

As Broadway shifts to a stronger, more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, let’s learn about and remember the truth about East Asians so we can shine a more realistic light on their (MY!) presence and experiences.

Here’s a link to my full Independent Study Project.

Connect with me   

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