UNIVERSAL CITY.—East West Players marked its 44th anniversary Monday evening, with the annual Visionary Awards gala and silent auction, held at the Universal Hilton.
The black-tie event was a star-studded affair, with some of the most celebrated Asian American talent in attendance. In addition to serving as a fundraiser for EWP’s projects and programs, the gala is a chance to recognize those performers who over the past year have helped to raise awareness and visibility of the Asian Pacific American community.This year’s honorees were musician and artist Mike Shinoda, Fox vice president for alternative entertainment Wenda Fong and Pixar Animation Studios, along with the star of their feature, “Up,” Jordan Nagai, who received the Breakout Performance Award.
“I hope the success of ‘Up’ will lead to more leading roles for Asian American artists,” said the 10-year-old Nagai, who starred as Wilderness Explorer Russell in the animated film that was nominated for a best picture Oscar.
Somewhat shy and reserved onstage, Nagai began his career in print work at the age of 1 and has also done voice work on “The Simpsons.” He said the best part of making “Up” was playing foosball and and other games between recording takes.
In accepting his Visionary Award, Shinoda said he doesn’t set about his work with any particular agenda in mind.
“I don’t concentrate on raising awareness of Asian Americans, it’s just what I do, it’s simply me,” Shinoda said, visibly touched by the honor.
Shinoda also referred to his admiration of actress Tamlyn Tomita, one of the evening’s emcees, and one of her best-known films.
“Was anyone else here in junior high when ‘Karate Kid II’ came out?” he asked, which drew applause and laughs. “Yeah, that was really awesome.”