Snehal Desai, 36, first joined East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color, in 2013, working as artistic associate and literary manager before assuming the role of associate artistic director.
Three years later, EWP has named him its new artistic director, effective July 1.
“I am deeply humbled and thrilled to be East West Players’ next Artistic Director,” Desai said in a statement.
Since joining EWP in 2013, Desai’s list of directed works include “A Nice Indian Boy,” “U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind,” and “The Who’s Tommy.” He attended Emory University for his undergraduate studies and received an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama.
“We are excited that Snehal will be EWP’s next artistic leader,” EWP board co-chair Daniel Mayeda said in a statement. “He has a national reputation in the theatre world as a fierce proponent of diversity, multi-culturalism and new Asian American artistic work.”
The company, located in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, has been praised as the nation’s leading Asian American theater troupe for award-winning productions that foster dialogue about the Asian Pacific American experience.
This past season, the theater troupe celebrated its 50th anniversary with an extended schedule that featured “La Cage Aux Folles,” an all Asian-American production led by EWP’s former director Tim Dang.
"We know how to work diversity, access, and inclusion," Dang told NBC News in April. "We have 50 years of experience doing this."
Dang, who joined EWP in 1993 and whose departure was announced last year, focused on paying greater attention to plays about South Asian and biracial characters. In 1998, Dang transformed the midsize company from a 99-seat “black box” theater into a new 240-seat venue.
According to the company’s most recent press release, Dang approves of the newly selected artist director to take on after his 23 years of leadership.
“Since I met Snehal in 2011, aside from his artistic gifts and his producing skills, I recognized a charm and diplomacy in his leadership that will advance East West Players and the next generation of artists through the remarkable sea change that is happening in American theatre,” Dang said in a statement. “I look forward to his and EWP’s growth and stature in the coming years.”
Desai will start by programming the 2017-18 season, with Dang serving as an adviser during the transition.
“I look forward to working with the Los Angeles community, the national theater community, board, artists, staff, and patrons to lead this seminal theater company from its golden anniversary into its next golden era,” Desai said.