AAPI Artists & Activists: Lainie Sakakura

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, LaDuca is honored to spotlight five inspiring performers whose work in the Entertainment Industry has greatly impacted the field and continues to inspire creativity, conversation, and change both on and off the stage.

As a Broadway performer, Lainie Sakakura performed in the original casts of Chita Rivera The Dancer’s Life, Flower Drum Song (revival), Tommy Tune’s The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, The King And I (1996 and 2015 revivals), and Fosse (dance reconstruction & onstage dance captain). Other NYC performing credits: Ballet Hispanico, Metropolitan Opera, City Center Encores!, and The Radio City Rockettes. Lainie is a NYC-based writer, director, choreographer, teaching artist, and advocate for cultural diversity, inclusion, and education. She is the co-founder of Rockettes of Color Alumnae, teaches at studios and universities across the country, and is currently developing Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a musical adaptation of New York Times Best Seller, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. 

“For a crane to be able to take flight, to soar into the skies of freedom, it needs two wings. One wing is the wing of wisdom; the other is the wing of compassion.”Duncan Ryūken Williams, Soto Zen Buddhist priest

Balancing wisdom and compassion to fly is very true for those of us that live the life as an AAPI artist in our industry. I balance my life by listening close, speaking my truth, holding on to my integrity without compromise, and giving with generosity– especially in moments when it’s the hardest to do. 

Equality, diversity, and inclusion in the theater is an ongoing battle. We can get overwhelmed and burnt out. I give myself 3 tasks that I believe are important and will contribute toward positive change:

1) MY VOICE. I speak my truth in the moment when I witness a wrong. I share my stories in the hope that I can bring awareness of the realities of our industry. 

2) I CREATE the theater I want to see. 

‘Corner of Bitter and Sweet’ is a musical featuring a book that I wrote and music & lyrics by Paul Fujimoto. Based on the New York Times bestseller, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, ‘Corner of Bitter and Sweet’ tells a stunning multigenerational story about a boy’s coming-of-age during WWII Seattle, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. The show has been in development for 5 years and I look forward to sharing it with more audiences.

2) PASS THE TORCH and support the next generation. 

AAPI numbers are not rising on Broadway. When I guest teach the graduating classes at the best musical theater programs in the country, I rarely see AAPI students. How will we grow our numbers if we lose them before they even have a chance? My husband, Alex Sanchez and I founded SAKACHEZ to mentor and train young performers of color. We not only help young performers in their technique and audition skills, but we also guide and support them emotionally—A balance to create a strong community with long roots in hopes they will persevere. 

Follow Lainie @lainiesaka and visit http://www.LSakakura.com and http://www.sakachez.com.

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