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2016 Creative Pioneer Honoree: Marilyn Tokuda


Marilyn Tokuda recently retired from East West Players (EWP) after fourteen years where she was hired as the organizations first Arts Education Director. She overlooked arts educational programming which included producing and developing the annual Theatre for Youth touring production. Poet/Migrant Activist Carlos Bulosan, Katherine Cheung, the first Chinese American woman to get her aviators license, and most recently Bhagat Singh Thind, the first Indian-American to join the U.S. Army who took his fight for citizenship in front of the Superior Court are a few of the Asian American stories cultivated and celebrated under her purview. The EWP arts education programs has received excellence awards from Asian Youth Center, The California Teachers Association as well as several recognition awards from city officials including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Council Member David Ryu.

Marilyn also has worked with Oku & Associates in diversity and inclusion training with Fortune 500 companies as well as representing East West Players on the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC). APAMC meets with television networks on an ongoing basis to evaluate the visibility and portrayals of Asian Pacific Americans in the media as well as continuing to build pipelines before and behind the camera.

She was responsible for directing many of the benefit performances at EWP  including: The Aloha Concert, Hero, Very Funny People, numerous One Night Only shows, the 37th-50th EWP Visionary Awards, and EWP’s holiday show The Nisei Widows Club Holiday On Thin Ice.  Other shows include directing an evening for the Democratic Convention during President Clinton’s presidency and she has directed scenes for five ABC Television Diversity Showcases.  She was one of the founding members of COLD TOFU, the first Asian American comedy group and served as its Artistic Director for six years.  In 2003, she was awarded a grant from the Spencer Cherashore Fund which acknowledges mature artists.

As an actress, Marilyn has performed in numerous productions at EWP including:  Sweeney Todd in the role of Mrs. Lovett, Follies, The Theory of Everything, Hanako, and Woman From the Other Side of the World.  She has also appeared in numerous television shows including:  Frasier, Friends, Seinfeld, Magnum P.I. and JAG. Films include:  Farewell to the King, Strawberry Fields and Xanadu.  Marilyn can be seen interviewed in the recently released special anniversary edition of Xanadu, also in the re-release of Breakfast at Tiffany’s which dedicates a section to discussing Mickey Rooney’s stereotypical depiction of Mr. Yuneyoshi, Audrey Hepburn’s upstairs frustrated Japanese neighbor.

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