Comedian Esther Paik Goodhart emceed the event, which included a full-course dinner, a raffle, and the presentation of the first Lilah Kan Red Socks Award, named in memory of a beloved benefactor to Asian-American theater artists. The award is intended to go to Asian-American actors with financial need. This year's recipient was actress Roseanne Ma, who will be playing Anna May Wong later this spring in Pan Asian Rep's production of China Doll, a play by Elizabeth Wong (no relation). "Wow, I didn't know it was going to include money!" exclaimed Ma as she accepted the award.
The highlight of the evening was an Anna May Wong look-alike contest. Celebrity judges included playwright-performer Charles Busch, actor Francis Jue (currently in Pacific Overtures), costume designer Willa Kim, and director-choreographer Lu Yu. (Talent agent and former nightclub entertainer Jadin Wong, previously announced as a judge, was unable to be present due to illness.) Ma was among the contestants, as were four other young women, two men in drag, and a dog. "I always knew Anna May was a bitch," cracked Goodhart as she welcomed the canine contestant to the stage. (Trixie the beagle was not the winner; that honor went to the elegantly dressed Victoria Chang.)
Pan Asian Repertory is the oldest Asian-American theater company in New York City, currently in its 28th season. Founded by artistic director Tisa Chang, the company is dedicated to celebrating Asian-American artistic expressiveness on the living stage. Proceeds from last evening's benefit will go toward Pan Asian's world premiere production of China Doll, a theatrical re-imagining of the life and career of Anna May Wong. The play is slated to run April 2-24 at the West End Theatre. For more information, visit www.panasianrep.org.