Interview with NYC based actress Elisabeth NG

Elisabeth NG, NYC Actress

I believe in giving actors of color a chance to play substantial roles in human stories. For better or worse, being ‘white’ is seen as the neutral race and white actors often get the chance to work on pieces that explore love, growing up, family relationships etc.

I had the privilege to interview Elisabeth NG, a super talented actress from Asia she previously worked for Goldman Sachs in London made a career transition into acting and is now based in NYC. She is also the founder of a theatre company. She believes actors should be chosen regardless of their race and not reduced to cultural tokens or stereotypes. Read the interview to find out more about her work.

When did you know you wanted to become an Actress?

I actually started off wanting to write and direct films. When I lived in Scotland I had the chance to work onset as a production assistant for BAFTA winning filmmaker Naysun Alae-Carew. One of the actresses for a smaller role didn’t show so they got me to stand in and improvise her part, and I was hooked! But first I went off and pursued a career in finance, ending up on the trading floor in London. Fortunately I was very mediocre at finance, and while it was interesting I didn’t want to waste my 20s being mediocre at something I wasn’t passionate about. That was the kick I needed to stop being afraid and fully pursue a career in what can be a scary path. I did some smaller theater productions in the UK but I didn’t feel at home in the theater world there so I moved to New York.

Can you tell us about your work as an artistic director for the Brooklyn Repertory?
At Brooklyn Repertory, we focus on colorblind and multiracial casting. We will cast an actor in a role if they’re right for it, regardless of racial logic, and try to incorporate a multiracial cast as much as possible. As artistic director I’m responsible for selecting which plays we want to produce as well as casting choices. So far I’ve chosen to produce established plays, both classical and modern. In the future I’d love to develop new work but I believe in taking the time to workshop a new piece slowly with a dramaturg and not rushing it to production.

Why is it important to focus on colorblind and multiracial casting?
I believe in giving actors of color a chance to play substantial roles in human stories. For better or worse, being ‘white’ is seen as the neutral race and white actors often get the chance to work on pieces that explore love, growing up, family relationships etc. Actors of color are relegated to working on pieces that only explore our racial identity, or as the supporting observer in neutral plays.

I think it’s important to pursue work that is both colorblind and multiracial concurrently. Multiracial reflects our cosmopolitan world. And by emphasizing on colorblind, we make sure actors regardless of their race are cast according to personality and not reduced to cultural tokens or stereotypes.

Elisabeth Ng, Blue surgeWhat is your greatest achievement so far?
We’ve had a great inaugural year with BKRep! Our revival of Julia Cho’s BFE in honor of its 10th year anniversary played to a sold out crowd every night and got a standing ovation. Our second production, Blue Surge, was featured in BroadwayWorld and got a rave review from the prestigious theatre magazine TheatreScene.

Behind all that success was a lot of sleepless nights, stress, tears and near-breakdowns. So it as a huge relief that no one came and threw rotten eggs at us.

Any exciting projects coming up?
We’ll be staging Chekhov’s Three Sisters at the New York Theater Workshop’s Fourth Street Theater this February. It’s our first classical piece, and we’re taking the colorblind ethos another step up by having actors of all ethnicities play roles they’re suited for, regardless whether the characters are familial related or not.

What advice can you give people just starting out?
Don’t get overwhelmed with the competition. It’ll make you unhappy but not a better artist.

1 Comment

  • Reply November 29, 2015

    David Choi

    What a great story and a noble mission! I also worked in corporate america before taking the leap into a world of artistry. It quite literally saved my life. Thank you for sharing and I’m looking forward to your work.

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