By Brian Robin
Tammy Tang Pays the Theatre Love Forward
How Tammy Tang discovered SCR is a story about powerful storytelling, the inevitable pull of serendipity and the fact that there are no coincidences in life.
Tang and her husband, Sam, were coping with the painful sight of watching her mother battle Alzheimer’s Disease back in her hometown of Honolulu when they got an invite from a couple of friends to see SCR’s 2014 world-premiere production of Rest by Samuel Hunter. What the Tangs saw changed their life.
“This imitated our life. Watching my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s, it felt like we were the only ones going through this,” she said. “This was a play set in an assisted living home in Idaho where you had an elderly patient with dementia missing in a blizzard. It was so compelling in that it spoke to what we were going through. I could see so many parallels and it made me feel like we weren’t alone. It was a tragic situation, but it brought humor to it and we saw it in a different light.
“We decided to be season subscribers. We were hooked.”
So hooked that Sam eventually joined SCR’s Board of Trustees, rising to the presidency in 2018. So hooked they became Honorary Producers of four productions: tokyo fish story, Kings, Cambodian Rock Band and Aubergine, along with numerous Pacific Playwrights Festivals. And so hooked that Tammy took over as solo chairperson for this year’s Gala.
“Honestly, when they asked me, I was very surprised. I was terrified, nervous and very honored—all at the same time,” she said. “There’s the gamut of emotions and I still have them. But it is a true privilege to represent South Coast Repertory, its supporters, its legacy donors and theatre lovers.”
Tammy became chairperson after co-chairing last year’s Gala Committee with her husband, Sam, and Michael Ray. She spent four years on the Gala Committee, originally joining despite “not really knowing what I was getting into. But the Galas were fun and exciting and it was a great way to celebrate SCR.”
Chairing the Gala appeals to her sense of purpose and the reigniting of her love of theatre, one initially nurtured at a small theatre near Diamond Head, in her native Hawai’i. Tammy would go there as a young girl and see community theatre. Later, she would see plays at larger theatres in Honolulu.
But seeing Rest at a pivotal, yet deeply personal, time in her life opened the door for Tammy to discover why theatre is important, why it has meaning beyond the stage.
“A lot of meaningful discussion came out of it,” she said, looking back at that moment. “I was able to look at circumstances differently, more positively. We really realized that plays are so much more than entertainment. They really illuminate the human experience: tragedy, triumphs, the joy as well as the struggles that we all face.”
That made her leap into the Gala chair seat easier.
“I felt like this would be a small way I could contribute to this event and to help garner support for SCR’s onstage performances and its arts education programs, as well as usher in the 2022-23 season,” she said. “But more than that, I think what is even more important is really letting people know that the power of live theatre and how it’s a vehicle not only to entertain, but to illuminate the human experience. The joys, the triumphs, the resilience of humanity.
“I think if that can come across in this Gala, then I know it’s going to be a memorable evening.”