by Anna Wehr
Erica Wong is part of our photo shoot featuring Asian-American representation on Broadway. You may know Wong from the recent revival of The King and I, the long-running Phantom of the Opera, or M. Butterfly.
Through each Broadway production Wong’s been a part of, she’s been able to use her ballet training, which started out as a childhood joy. She didn’t expect ballet would carry her to Broadway.
“Not only has the style and knowledge of it been in every show I’ve done, ballet keeps me physically and mentally healthy,” she said.
Broadway has given her the opportunity to flex more than just her performance skills. In addition to performing as a Swing in M. Butterfly, she was also dance captain. It challenged and rewarded her in new ways. She noted the difficulty of stepping into a management position, as it differed immensely from her previous work.
With challenges also come rewards. She shared that “watching [director] Julie Taymor work with the cast and all the departments was fascinating because I got to learn what her vision was, and how each department came together to support that vision. Working with Ma Cong was also a pleasure, because not only was his movement expressive and tailored to each individual dancer, he is an extremely kind human and amazing dancer.”
Now, even though Wong has been fortunate in her career on Broadway, there’s still work that can be done to increase Asian American representation on Broadway.
“I can say for all Asian-Americans that auditioning as an Asian person of descent, born and raised in the United States, can sometimes make you feel like an ‘in between,’” Wong shared. “I don’t speak fluently in any Asian languages, but I also am clearly not Caucasian. This description fits a very large amount of people in the United States, yet it somehow suddenly decreases the amount of roles I am seen for.”
A suggestion Wong offers is for the people sitting behind the casting table to be more diversified.
“So often I find myself auditioning in front of the same demographic,” she said. “These people are all incredibly talented and qualified, but there is definitely room for inclusion. By increasing the number of different cultural points of view at the casting table, we increase the exposure of our perspective, allowing more light onto our image of American culture.”