I think perhaps the acting bug strikes early and stays with you most of your life, whether on the stage or in the audience enjoying the events going on just a few feet or yards away. I’ve come across this notion a number of times from others as well as my own involvement and enjoyment. This article is about Aya Hashiguchi Clark and Randy Clark. Peg and I first met them in a coffee shop near Stadium High School.
Aya shared her history as well as her husband, Randy’s, “Our interest in theatre began for the both of us during childhood. Randy and I both appeared in a high school play when we were just in elementary school. Randy appeared in “Auntie Mame” at San Marino High School in San Marino, CA. in 1962.
I was in “Teahouse of the August Moon” at Renton HS in 1967. Those two productions started the long road in our theatrical journeys.”
“Randy and I met while performing in “Our Town” at the Lakewood Playhouse in 2006. We played Editor and Mrs. Webb. Ten months later we married “in real life.”
I think Peg and I were mostly interested in seeing “A Minidoka Christmas,” but ended up seeing a production of “The Waltz of the Toreadors” at their Dukesbay Theatre just a few blocks away from the coffee shop. We enjoyed the play and the intimacy of the 40 seat theater.
Aya explains about the theatre, “We founded Dukesbay Productions in 2011 because, after marrying Randy and moving down to Pierce County, I noticed a marked lack of opportunities for actors of color. Having just moved from King County, where there are at least 3 Asian American theatre companies (and where I was cast in roles in other theaters even when the roles didn’t require an Asian actor), it was particularly frustrating for me not to find this same open mind (as often as in King Co.) about casting and even fewer instances of local theatre companies producing shows that required the presence of persons of color. Randy had never really thought about this issue until he married me and also noticed these things. We had always dreamed of founding our own theatre, so this was the opportunity we were looking for.”
Peg and I first saw the role of color change, or actually, just disappear when we saw “My Fair Lady” in Portland over twenty years ago. We also watch a lot of films and shows from the United Kingdom, where race and color have become common place. Like Aya points out, the larger cities have in the past had more opportunities for people of all colors and ethnicities. In Tacoma and Pierce County area, we perhaps need a little more exposure.
Aya is a little more forward, “As for the role of color and ethnicity in Tacoma theatre, I would say that it has definitely improved, but we still have a ways to go before I can safely say we are an unapologetically diverse and inclusive art form here in Pierce County. Since the racial “awakening” that the country experienced after the George Floyd murder, many people and organizations realized that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI for short) are no longer merely options, but are the way that we must operate for the present and into the future.”
Aya shared a Lakewood Playhouse production favorite. “Randy and I have performed together in the Radio Gala twice. The first time was in 2011, when they did “War of the Worlds.” Randy played a variety of roles in that piece, while I assisted James Venturini with sound effects. That is the performance represented in the photo with the big microphone.
We performed once again this year when we did a vampire story night. I played the Horla (who haunted a character played by Randy) and we also played smaller roles in “Carmilla.”
Aya says, “Our goals for Dukesbay Productions are two-fold. To create a theatre company that intentionally seeks out actors of color so we can tell their stories and/or incorporate them into “mainstream” stories… and to promote independent theatre in Tacoma. Our theatre venue that we built is small and affordable for a small, independent production companies to use. I believe since we’ve built the Dukesbay Theater, there is now a more noticeable indie theatre movement here in Tacoma. We are happy to play a part in that.”
Aya, Randy, and Dukesbay Productions won the AMOCAT (“Tacoma” spelled backwards) Award in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. The Amocat Award is given out by the City of Tacoma for Community Outreach in the Arts.
Aya revealed more about a combined effort, “Dukesbay Productions committed ourselves to this in our work, but some of the larger, more established theatre companies in town are actively working toward DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in their organization’s vision and mission. My hat is off to Tacoma Little Theatre, Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Tacoma Arts Live, who have all made admirable strides in this. Expect to see more diverse programming from these theatre companies this season and in future seasons. One of the keys, in my opinion, has been their recruiting of more diverse leadership on their boards and staff. I currently sit on the Board of Directors for TLT, and am pleased that 40% of our Board are persons of color. Chris Serface, the artistic director for TLT, plans shows for this season and next that showcase stories of the Global Majority as well as playwrights from the Global Majority.”
Randy says, “Dukesbay has been in our current space for 8 years. Aya and I are a good team in that she handles the administration duties and I handle the production end. All of the decisions are made jointly. “Randy gave us a little more information about himself and Dukesbay details, “I was primarily an actor in and around the Seattle/Tacoma area for over 40 years. Except for an occasional read, like the Lakewood Radio Play, I don’t act anymore. Producing and directing is where I devote my talents now. We’re currently in preproduction for our next show, “God Said This” by Leah Nanako Winkler, which will be going up in March. Its title makes it sound like a religious play, but it’s not. It takes place in Kentucky and is about a mixed race family, Japanese/Caucasian, who are a bit dysfunctional and don’t get along with each other. The mother is now ill with cancer and they need to get together to support her. It is quite poignant and humorous.”
Randy got his early training in theatre from UPS (University of Puget Sound), where he studied English and Theatre back in the early 1970s. I had one drama class before switching to fine arts with painting and drawing. Peg and I met while attending UPS, where she was a German Literature major. Aya had little formal training in theatre, as she graduated from USC (University of Southern California) with a degree in Occupational Therapy in the late 1970s. Formal training can be important, but as you explore and learn about theatre, it becomes a part of you . . . and your life expands.
Note: Global Majority refers to people of color