East West Players (EWP), the nation’s premier Asian American theater, celebrates its golden anniversary at its annual Visionary Awards Dinner on Monday, April 20, at the Universal Hilton.
The Visionary Awards laud the achievements of individuals who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community through their craft. Proceeds from the gala will benefit EWP’s educational and artistic programs.
Honoree Jeff Imada has amassed over 400 credits in feature films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos as a second unit director, stunt coordinator, gight choreographer, technical advisor, stuntman, and/or actor. His most recent work can be seen in “Furious 7.”
Besides acting, another passion in Imada’s life is the martial arts. In 1973, he met the legendary Dan Inosanto (Bruce Lee’s protégé and colleague) and has been training with him ever since in numerous styles. Imada currently holds the rank of senior instructor with Inosanto and is one of the few certified instructors in Jeet Kune Do and the Filipino/Indonesian martial arts.
Confirmed to host the event is actor Parvesh Cheena (TV’s “Outsourced” and “Arrested Development”; “Barbershop” film franchise).
“I am excited to be hosting the gala on such a huge anniversary for East West Players,“ Cheena notes. “I’m also thrilled that everyone will be able to get a sneak peek at ‘The Who’s Tommy,’ that opens in May!”
Also confirmed to attend are Randall Park and Constance Wu, stars of the hit TV comedy “Fresh Off the Boat.” They are scheduled to present honorees Nahnatchka Khan and Melvin Mar with their awards.
Khan is the creator for television/executive producer and Mar is executive producer for “Fresh Off the Boat,” which airs Tuesdays on ABC and is produced by Fox.
“As a girl with glasses, I take special pride in receiving the Visionary Award from East West Players,” said Khan. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized by this great organization.”
“Growing up I had Chinese parents who constantly reminded me how I had to be a doctor to be successful,” said Mar. “East West Players represents that a Chinese kid could pursue his dreams in the arts. It’s an honor to be recognized.”
Prior to “Fresh Off the Boat,” Khan was the creator and executive producer of “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23,” which aired for two seasons on ABC, from 2011-2012. Before creating her own series, she served as an executive producer on the Fox animated show “American Dad.”
Mar began his career at Dreamworks SKG and then at Scott Rudin Productions, where he built a solid relationship with “Orange County” director Jake Kasdan. They’ve worked together since on “The TV Set,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Bad Teacher,” “New Girl” and “Sex Tape.” Besides his work on “Fresh Off the Boat,” he is also executive producer for the upcoming Fox series “Weird Loners.”
Receiving the EWP/AARP Real Possibilities Visionary Award is Paula Williams Madison, chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles-based media consultancy company with global reach.
In 2011, Madison retired from NBCUniversal, where she had been executive vice president of Diversity as well as a vice president of General Electric, then the parent company of NBCU. During her 22 years with NBCU, she held a number of successful leadership roles, including president and general manager of NBC4 Los Angeles, Los Angeles regional general manager for NBCU’s Telemundo TV stations, and vice president and news director of NBC4 New York.
Her career as a journalist led to a 1996 Peabody Award for NBC4 New York’s investigation “A License to Kill.” Madison’s continued dedication to quality journalism helped NBC4 Los Angeles earn numerous Emmy, Golden Mike and Regional Edward R. Murrow awards.
She is the executive producer and subject of “Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China,” a compelling documentary that chronicles her journey to her maternal grandfather’s homeland in China and the reconnection of her family with his 300 descendants. HarperCollins will publish a memoir on the journey, “Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem,” this month.
“I am deeply humbled that the East West Players and AARP would honor me with their Visionary Award,” said Madison. “A few years ago, I retired from the corporate world and focused on bridging a gap to connect with my grandfather’s descendants in China after an almost 100-year separation. This award truly recognizes and celebrates this recent chapter in my life’s story. It characterizes what we Hakka Chinese people say in our Hakka dialect, ‘Chee Gah Ngin’ or ‘Many Places, One People.’”
Major sponsors of the gala include: Platinum Circle – AARP, CBS Corporation, Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company; Gold Circle – 20th Century Fox Television; Silver Circle – IW Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Wells Fargo; Bronze Circle – The Africa Channel, Tim Dang and Darrel Cummings, HBO, Jake Kasdan, Bob Kawahara, Nahnatchka Khan, Mattel (3), Melvin Mar, Sanrio, Union Bank, Lynn Waggoner, William Morris Endeavor.
Award-winning composer Nathan Wang (Beijing Olympics/Shaolin Monks, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Award-winning film “The Last Days”) will serve as the evening’s musical director.
The Hilton Universal City, is located at 555 Universal Hollywood Drive in Universal City. The VIP reception for table sponsors will begin at 5 p.m. No-host reception and silent auction will start at 6 p.m. The dinner and awards program will start at 7 p.m.
Individual tickets are $200- $1,500. Full table sponsorship packages are also available. For more information, contact East West Players at (213) 625-7000 or Development Manager Monika Ramnath at firstname.lastname@example.org.