Amazing Asians in the Arts: Diane Phelan
Diane Phelan is a singer, actress, and director based in New York City! She has performed on Broadway in “School of Rock,” internationally in “West Side Story,” “Here Lies Love,” “Where Elephants Weep” in Cambodia, and on a national tour of “The King and I.” Diane is also heavily involved with #RacismIsAVirus and the Broadway Diversity Project. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Diane an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Diane Phelan
Current City: NYC
Current Project: #RacismIsAVirus and the Broadway Diversity Project. Also the movie musical “Marry Harry” I filmed is opening May 15, streaming on www.StreamingMusicals.com
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
“School of Rock” on Broadway, “West Side Story,” “Here Lies Love,” and “Where Elephants Weep.”
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
Even though I’m Filipina-American, I was born and raised Third Culture in Taipei and went to a school for prodigious musicians completely in Mandarin. I was fluent and thought I was actually Chinese until about 12 years old, when I discovered I wasn’t actually Chinese. It was confusing and took me a few years to work out as a kid, but now it’s a part of who I am and I’m proud of it.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
Creating “Where Elephants Weep” in Cambodia was a special experience. The rock opera was a commission by the NGO Cambodian Living Arts with the aim to refurbish the arts in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge wiped out most of their artists 40 years ago. From that experience, I learned how incredibly powerful art can be in healing generational and national trauma. It’s hard to top the experience of what we were able to accomplish there.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Have a full life and make sure you set a foundation. A life in the arts is completely unsustainable without a proper foundation of money smarts and a good support system. You will burn out and that is not helpful to anyone.
How did you get your start?
I played Tuptim on a national tour of “The King and I” and left my junior year of college to do it. I did finish school a half a semester late, and while education is of utmost importance, I learned most of my foundational knowledge of what it takes to be a professional and a leading lady from that experience. I mean, I learned what NOT to do! I was a wreck. But it was a blast. Truly grateful for that experience and all I learned.
Who do you admire?
I admire every single person of color who takes a risk to be unapologetic and speak their truth. I am always inspired by authenticity.
Do you have any non profits you work with that you’d like to highlight?
People should check out Baayork Lee’s company, National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) www.NAAProject.org
Unapologetically Asian is a campaign dedicated to uplifting Asian American voices and empowering and emerging new Asian American Identity, as one that is defiant, positive and proud. Our initiative during APAHM is getting folks to share a one minute video about what makes them Unapologetically Asian.
The Broadway Diversity Project's mission is to celebrate and encourage diverse casting on Broadway, Regional, & beyond. Representation matters #diversityworks
Did you have any mentors?
Baayork Lee has been an amazing force in the Asian American community and has been a mentor not only to myself, but actually hundreds of people. She gave me the opportunity to play Julie Jordan in “Carousel” in front of a New York City audience, and then became the first person to take me under their wing to help me pursue a parallel career as a Director. She’s told me my voice is absolutely needed as a director and a performer, and she really nurtured me to believe in my purpose and to strongly follow this path.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Getting out of my own way has been number one. Establishing a grounded foundation in my life for longevity (financial skills, self care, health and relationships) has also been something I needed to learn. This is all followed closely by combatting the hurdles of being a POC performer on Broadway. I find it’s harder to get teams to look at your to play lead roles when you’re not white. You have to be not only as good as everyone else who is contending, but you have to blow them out of the water. This is starting to change a bit as we are seeing with the Broadway Diversity Project, the online platform for diverse casting that I run, but I cringe a little when people say “Oh, it’s your time now!” as if my ethnicity being on trend is something to celebrate. I’ll celebrate when people of color get the same opportunities as all ethnicities in America.
Where did you study?
New York University
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I’m a cat mom @Mermanthegingercar. Also, people should support #RacismISAVirus and speak out against #AsianAmericanRacism. To help you can create a post using our hashtag and also buy a shirt with all proceeds going to benefit Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a non profit doing amazing work to support and empower Asian Americans now.
For more information about Diane, please visit her at: