Check out the winners of the 2023-24 Cre8sian Project Scholarships!


Your Cart is Empty

September 02, 2023 18 min read 2 Comments


Erin Quill is a multidisciplinary artist with a love for shark documentaries. In another life, she might have been a marine biologist, but her path led her towards singing in middle school and pushed her to attend Carnegie Mellon for her BFA. Now, her resume boasts credits such as Avenue Q (original Broadway cast), Flower Drum Song (50th anniversary), Dave (an original musical), Netflix’s Sack Lunch Bunch with John Mulaney, and an episode of Law and Order SVU. She’s also contributed to the books RISE (“a pop-culture history of Asian America from the 90s to now”), and Theatre Blogging: The Emergence of a Critical Culture, written the script for a comic book about the first Puerto Rican, superhero, La Boriqueña (RICANSTRUCTION), andis currently turning her short film, Queen Bessie’s Gal, into a possible feature or series. When she’s not immersed in creation, Quill can be found working with Pan Asian Rep Theater Company in NYC or supporting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Desert AIDS Project. Her advice to young artists? “If you’re going into the arts, you have to be brave… don’t do it unless you cannot think of how else you are going to maneuver through life.”Read on to learn more about Erin Quill and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!

Name:   Erin Quill

Heritage:   Nationally – I am a dual citizen of Australia and the USA. I am all the letters of the AAPI, however, my heritage mainly is Chinese, Irish, Welsh – although on the East Asian side, I have Southeast Asian heritage, western Asian heritage, and Pacific Islander.


Current Project:   


I am turning my short film, Queen Bessie’s Gal, into a feature, possibly a series. I have it in play form as well. It is one of my family stories, so it’s very personal but what has blown me away is how well it has been received in the world and the response from people demanding it be a bigger project. I have to credit Voices of Women, based in Australia, because they did all the lifting to get it into so many film festivals, including the Cannes international film festival. They even arranged to have a screening of it at the Australian consulate in New York, and the response was overwhelming. It is part of a larger project called ENTANGLEMENT – 12 short films by 12 different women collaborating between Australia and the United States. I curated and moderated several panels at BroadwayCon, where we discussed AAPI concerns in regards to Broadway – and that is part of my larger social justice passion project, which is called the Fairy Princess Diaries. That is a blog I started a few weeks after my son was born, and it has really helped change the landscape in terms of the casting of Asian American pacific islanders on our stages across the country in England and Australia in France and New Zealand.


What are some of your favorite credits/projects?


Listen, every time I’m cast in a musical because I know how competitive the field is and I’m happy that I’m on stage. I was a member of the original company of Avenue Q on Broadway.


I was part of the 50th anniversary production of Flower Drum Song.



I was part of the company of the original musicalDave, based on the movie with Kevin Kline. John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch on Netflix is one of my favorite projects because I got to work with David Byrne all day. Most recently I got to work with Mariska Hartigay on Law and Order SVU she directed and she was so cool. I was very honored to be asked to contribute to the book RISE, a pop-culture history of Asian America from the 90s to now, as well as the book, Theatre Blogging: The Emergence of a Critical Culture. All available on Amazon.


The most interesting thing I think I’ve ever done is writing the script for a comic book called RICANSTRUCTION, which followed the adventures of the first Puerto Rican, superhero, La Boriqueña. She has a mixed Asian friend – Lala – and the writer,  Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez asked if I would contribute a story for the anthology – the proceeds were going to fund grants in Puerto Rico after the big storm. It’s still being sold on Amazon and because it was so different from what I normally do, it was amazing! I got to work with amazing visual artists who do comic books – it was beyond. Fantasy fulfilled.


Any advice for young people getting into the arts?


If you’re going into the arts, you have to be brave. You have to be really, really sure that you want to do it. I always say don’t do it unless you cannot think of how else you are going to maneuver through life.


How did you get your start?


I was in middle school, and I won the vocal achievement award. My parents were shocked that I could sing, because both of them were tone deaf. My dad called his brother who happened to be an Emmy award winning producer. Uncle John said that if I was any good at all, he would recommend Carnegie Mellon University because those were the only people that he liked to work with. I attended a summer program there and when I was walking around the campus, I could see myself there for four years. I went back to New York, and I prepped, got myself ready, auditioned, and I was able to get in. It may be the hardest thing that I have ever been through aside from childbirth, to get that BFA. What people don’t realize is that when you go into these primarily white institutions to funnel yourself into a primarily white field, it can feel lonely all the time, even as you make the best friends of your life. My real start was Carnegie Mellon and I will always be proud of that. The friendships I made at school are still with me to this day.


Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?


I just did a reading of the first act of a new musical that has three female Asian American writers. The workshop was essentially all female and queer, except for the music director – and the way that workshop was run let me know that things are changing in a great way. The title of the show is Yoko’s Husband's Killer's Japanese Wife, Gloria. We only did the first act, but it was fabulous.


What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?


The biggest challenges in my career come from being mixed race. For the white people, I looked too Asian and for the Asians, I did not look Asian enough. Entertainment in America is largely a PWI – and that is hard to always come up against. I think with people like Daniel Dae Kim producing, Ali Wong writing and producing, and Randall Park starting their own production companies, it will all change, but still it’s going to take time (and nobody wants to hear that). Particularly younger people who have had instant success on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter, the immediacy of the gratification of becoming well-known on. Those platforms has seeped into their expectations of how open and welcoming and liberal show business is when the truth is, it’s really not


What are some interesting facts about yourself?


I really love shark documentaries. I also have an admiration for orcas, they are so smart. If I had been just a tiny bit more interested in biology class, I would be a marine biologist. I guess it is interesting that my cousin, Mike Quill, was one of the founders of the Transit Workers Union. My dad was a labor attorney because of Mike, so when I’m feeling very nostalgic I will swing by the TWC headquarters and just take a look at the Michael J Quill building and think of my dad, Kevin. I am on strike now with the rest of my union, SAG AFTRA – so I am feeling very much of the owners of heritage from my Irish side at the moment. My mother, Carmel Fang Yuen, was a Chinese-Australian ballet dancer, and her mother, Alma Shang Fang Yuen was a concert pianist – so as I go about in the world trying to be an artist, I don’t have the baggage that a lot of Asian artists have which is lack of family support. My family always supported my choices, as I go along, I realize that I don’t have to carry that particular piece of baggage – Asian Artists find that very interesting, I have found.


Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?


I work with Pan Asian Rep Theater Company in NYC – it is NY’s oldest Asian theatre company. I also have a huge fondness for East West Players in LA. Broadway Cares/EFA is a huge part of my fundraising journey, and I always support – they do absolutely incredible work all across the country, and they are a wonderful organization that provides financial support for organizations already in the area via grants, and it’s astonishing what they’ve been able to accomplish. Desert AIDS Project in Palm Desert is wonderful and honestly, I support Kristina Wong in whatever way I can because her projects are always interesting and thoughtful and span the spectrum of support NOT based on background, but need. She combines art with aid, and it’s breathtaking to watch.


Who do you admire?


I have so many people – it would just be a long laundry list, but what is common to all of them is that they have changed the world for the better. I think what distinguishes people for whom I have respect and admiration is their drive and their determination to leave things better than they found them. I appreciate anyone whose heart is in their work. My sisters are both admirable people actually – very remarkable in their own ways. Strong personalities. 


Do you have any mentors?


It’s odd, because I teach now, and I find myself being placed in the mentor position. If I had to name names, I would say Alvin Ing.


Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?


I think I was set on visual art or law or when I was young, but when I found I could sing, it was like a lightbulb went on. I was a voracious reader, and I still am. I found so many things interesting that I really couldn’t tell what I was going to do. Sometimes I feel like I still don’t know what I want to do or who I want to be when I grow up.


When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?


When my uncle told me the only people he liked to work with went to Carnegie Mellon, I thought “well, that is the first step.” I decided if I could not get into Carnegie Mellon then I did not have the talent that I knew was required to have a career in the arts as a performer – and in my mind that became the litmus test. I felt like I was giving it up to the universe and the universe was going to let me know after I applied to college what path I would be able to go down.


Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?


I am ahead in some ways, in others I am way behind. I never thought I would gain recognition for my writing – and the fact that I have is something so vastly different than what I had pictured. However, what I would like to do is get on a network television show as a series regular and have it last five seasons, and then be able to afford doing theatre for the rest of my life. Let’s speak that into existence, okay? Say it with me: “series regular (when the strike ends of course).”


Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?


OMG yes ! I was a dancing mah-jongg tile for the Chinese singer Sam Hui in Atlantic City. I made old-fashioned lemonade at a lemonade stand during the Belmont horse races – we had to cut the lemons fresh and then use an old fashioned lemon squeezer (if you cut your finger, it was beyond a terrible day). I worked at Bloomingdale’s. I was a production assistant on a puppet music video right before college. I was a production assistant at a commercial production company, and then eventually I rose to become the assistant director rep, so I wrapped the directors for television commercials. I worked in a catering house. I answered the phones at a union. I babysat large families. I have been a realtor. I have reviewed gay porn as a straight woman for a magazine because my friend was the editor – I used a pseudonym. I worked at a gay gym in the West Village – that was amazing. I have sung in gay night clubs I have not bartended and I always wanted to but as a singer the hours were not conducive to a good sound so I didn’t get my certification for that.


Do you have any other “special skills?”


Probably? Oh – I just got my certification in Opera Direction at Ithaca College – because my singer friends who went into the classical realm told me there is a need for female directors of BIPOC background.


Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?


Well, I’ve been directing musical musical reviews at the college level and now I have my direction certification in opera so I’d really like to start directing operas, particularly operas that have an Asian influence like Madame ButterflySemiramide, or Turandot - that kind of thing. I feel that we don’t need to throw out the glorious music that is part of those operas, but we need new lenses to look at them through. We have to diversify who is telling the story.


If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?


I had one parent in the arts and the second parent was an attorney however, the parts that are most relevant to the work that I do today are more from my dad. The writing –  he was an amazing writer, the sense of humor – that’s that Irish sense of humor. What I get from my mother that is most relevant to the arts is discipline, training and a sense of dissatisfaction unless I know that I have done my absolute best. My mom could be relentless and that comes I believe from her being in the ballet world for so long, but the discipline to be a top level ballet dancer is extraordinary. Really it’s a combination of what they both gave me that makes me who I am.


If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?


I will tell my younger self “your mom is right you’re going to need piano please practice even if you hate it and honestly you don’t really hate it. You just are annoyed that your mother keeps reminding you to practice.” Also, don’t quit ballet.


What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?


Sense of humor and dogged pursuit of stage work. Looking back, it is incredible to me, almost a mystery as to how I was able to still be here, in the Arts. 


Where did you study at?


CMU in Pittsburgh – I was a Voice major. 


What is your greatest accomplishment?


Honestly? My son. He is 11, and he is wonderful. After that, my friendships that hold me down – those are my accomplishments.


What are some goals you hope to achieve?


I would really like to sell Queen Bessie as a series. It’s a historical Australian-based drama that involves Chinese-Australians and their journey within Australia, and yet it is so relevant to now. My Chinese-Australian family is entwined within the fabric of Australia. My great uncle Caleb Shang was the highest decorated Chinese-Australian soldier of WW1. My Great Grandfather, William Fang Yuen was the victim of one of the most hideous cases of injustice against a Chinese man in Australia – he was brutally murdered, and they did not prosecute, because the man who killed him was white. I think the story of what happened to him and his family is completely relevant to what is happening now. I would like to be the one to tell her my grandmother and my mother always said that I should be the one to tell it and I never could figure out how and I finally figured it out. My mom passed in December of last year and I want to honor her and her family and celebrate how much they accomplished in their lifetimes.


What do you love most about what you do?


I love that every day is different and that one day I can be a normal mom picking up her kid taking him to lessons and then the next day I can go see my friend star in a Broadway musical and the next day I’m in a car being driven to sad and yet I am giving notes to young actors on scenes they’re working on. I don’t want to be on an endless version of Groundhog Day.


What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?


Humor – self deprecating humor, the support of people who were/are beloved in my life. Sometimes it was martinis, and that’s OK too.


How do you deal with performance anxiety?

I don’t get performance anxiety. If anything, I get very excited, getting ready to perform. Where I do get anxious is in the preparation so as long as I allow enough time for preparation, I am not bothered at all by performance.


Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?


Self care prior to the pandemic was possibly treating myself to a foot rub or a haircut or maybe if I was crazy that day I was doing a manicure. How self-care now post pandemic includes a lot of time in my head to filter and process things that are bothering me at the moment. Although I still love a facial!


How do you prepare for a role you consider difficult personally (such as villains or antagonists), whether it hits too close to home or goes greatly against your personal beliefs?


What I did with the series is, I would interview other successful, mixed Asian actors of varying ages in backgrounds in at the cities and I just talk to them for an hour half hour  about obstacles, how their career turned out for them and having that sense of purpose was really important to me during the pandemic. I was teaching digitally so I felt very fortunate because so many of my friends were unable to work, because of course you couldn’t go into a theater. I did direct a play that was live streamed during the pandemic – set in Salem during the witch trials. Logistically we had to figure out how the actors were wearing masks, if they were ever allowed to take down their masks – how are you supposed to keep actors in a scene 6 feet from one another? One of the devices I came up with was because it’s a prison cell in old Salem, I suggested that we chain them 6 feet apart. So that’s what we did, and it really worked in terms of setting the stage for this performance and the actors, being college age, they loved it. College actors in very many ways are some of the best to work with because they come with so much enthusiasm and willingness to learn and willingness to try different things. They helped me just as much as I helped them. I believe as an actor, you do have to find at least one thing you can admire about a character, whether or not it is a person that is close to you and your morals, and how you would handle the obstacles the character faces. It is hard to inhabit somebody you don’t like-  at the same time you have to have almost a meeting of the minds with the character, and agree to disagree on the parts that you find egregious, hold on to the things that you can find that are admirable that can help you track how best to portray them 


If you’ve crossed the table from performing to being on a creative team, what made you take the leap, and how did it change your way of thinking?


I started directing a few years ago and I really enjoy it. I direct at the college level.  I would like to expand and direct off and on Broadway. I’ve had a lot of time on stage and yet I’ve also had a lot of time to think, and directing to me, is like putting together a puzzle where everything fits and I enjoy that challenge.


How do you think your creative process has changed over time?


I think when I was younger, I knew all the answers. Now that I am older, I feel like I go into everything not knowing any answers all I have are questions


Since so many of us spent a lot of time isolated during the pandemic, how has that experience specifically changed your creative or preparation process or your outlook on life?

During the pandemic, I was isolating like everyone else, and I started to do a digital series for theater kids who are of mixed Asian dissent and it was called Mixing It Up With Erin Quill. It wasn’t my suggestion to start the series, but when the theater company explained to me that the reason they wanted to do the series was because their student body had a lot of mixed race Asians, and they were feeling like they didn’t really belong anywhere. I remember feeling that way as a young performer and I thought well if I could help them see themselves in this time when nobody can actually go and see themselves. Then I directed a musical for Marymount in Manhattan, called Musical Of Musicals. We still had to wear masks even while doing a musical, and we still had to land all the jokes. It was intense and it was super hard and I was so proud of my team for being able to be present with the students and tell the story and still have it be funny and relevant. I also ate a lot of cookies and took my son on very long walks outdoors just the two of us.


If you used to be in the arts and have gone into a new profession, what prompted the change, what skills that you already had led you to gravitate towards it, and what was your transition into your new profession like? What kind of challenges did you face, and what did you find you were very comfortable with? And what skills from your arts training did you find helped you in your new profession?


I think one of the challenges that I had going into direction is that, back in my day when I was in school it was a very different style of direction. The directors had no problems telling actors off, being very blunt. I was doing King and I. I was working with a director, who was female, who decided somewhere along the line that yes she had cast me, but she did not like me. We have this rule in Equity that we are not to be given notes after half hour, which is half hour before performance. But every night at 7:25, 5 minutes before I “cannot” read the note – 7:30 she would demand that stage management deliver me the nastiest notes. She also demanded that I read them in front of stage management, knowing that she was just messing with me, but I could not respond. Wasn’t until the AEA deputy saw her take away my principal dressing room, and all these notes started coming to the ensemble dressing room where I had been placed – that she stepped in and put a stop to it. She had not known, and I had not said anything because in that world at that time you didn’t say anything about the director, you just followed the direction. Emotionally it was always combative. So given that background and how much the world has changed, I often really think before I give my feedback. To me, being a director is similar to being a doctor, and that there should also be an oath taken that does no harm at the beginning of the oath.


How do you deal with writer's block?


Writer's block is hideous and sometimes I think it’s not a block that you unconsciously put yourself in because you don’t want to write about this particular subject since it will upset you, and so the best thing to do is give yourself grace. Walk away from it, do something creative that is adjacent to what you’re blocking but don’t worry that it’s never going to end. It will end you just have to go out and almost distract yourself Before you come back to the project and then eventually, it’s like anything else – it’s like dance – you have to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and try to have a new idea and then go get a cup of coffee and then come back. If you keep coming back, eventually, you will find a solution. 


Do you have a favorite book/screenplay/script?


I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One of my prized possessions is a compilation of all the Sherlock Holmes stories that I got when I was in sixth grade, and I try to reread my favorite ones every year. The writing is so dense, it expands my mind. It’s delightful! 


When you are creating a story, what is your process for putting a storyline together? 


I am a fl- by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I don’t outline, which is a huge no-no. I usually write the first draft with no outline. I finish the script and then I go back, and I write an outline of what I see now and then I mess up all the scenes. I put them in an order, but that first crack at it is completely wild and undisciplined, and anything can happen and then I go back and rewrite because writing is rewriting. 


What inspires you?


What inspires me is going to museums or plays – going out and seeing what other people do causes my brain to form a new pathway so that I can translate my creativity and what I like to do. Stories that I would like to tell – that’s what I find interesting. It sounds very grandiose, but it honestly isn’t. I just feel like sometimes there needs to be an examination of a particular topic and so then I start writing about it – some really bad drafts, some never get to see the light of day, but if I think it has potential, I have a couple of close friends who will read it and give me their honest opinions. 


If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?


When the post “Moises Kaufman can kiss my ass and here’s why” went viral in about a day and a half, my life was forever changed. 


To find out more about Erin Quill, please visit her at: 

Instagram:  @erinquill

2 Responses

Loretta Leong
Loretta Leong

September 08, 2023

Gosh Erin you have so much talent congratulations your mum and dad must have been so proud of you. Keep up great works so you will entertain us for many years. Thank thank you. Love Loretta andcSteve. Cairns. Australia

Dom Magwili
Dom Magwili

September 08, 2023

Erin, is analytical and funny, which is an entertaining combination. She is insightful and fearless, which is also dangerous. I learned so much new information about her. That she is going into directing and exercising her writing muscles just makes her more creative. I look forward to what she comes up with next!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Subscribe to our newsletter