Helen H. Ota is the co-founder of Yes, and … Productions which, produced Songs for a New World at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum in 2009. She is also the Artistic Director of COLD TOFU, the nation’s premier Asian American comedy improvisation group. A member since 1993, she has performed in and produced numerous COLD TOFU improv and sketch shows.
Helen is also a performing member of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, whose mission is to present educational and theatrical programs in appreciation for the unique hardships and inspiring contributions of Japanese Americans in our country’s history.
Some of her recent stage and film credits include Ching Chong Chinaman, Songs for a New World, The Betrayed, Manzanar: Story of an American Family, Nihonmachi: The Place To Be, Project Momotaro, Natsukashi Kouhaku Utagassen, Twelfth Night, The Golden Hour, Back in the Day, A Jive Bomber’s Christmas, Umamiya, Hands On, Carpool and BuddhaHeads.
Helen enjoys supporting and being active in the Japanese American community by serving on the Board of Directors for the Nisei Week Foundation and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. She also works in Development for Center Theatre Group, a nonprofit arts organization in Downtown Los Angeles.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Michael C. Palma has always been around the entertainment industry. But what got him started with performing was when he was “forced” to take piano lessons with a local Filipino teacher, who also taught traditional Pilipino cultural dances and songs. Not only was he learning how to play piano, but his affiliation with the cultural group enabled him to perform at various festivals, recitals, parades, etc., all of which developed his love of performing.
Mike’s break came when he was 8 years old and cast in a Philippine national touring group’s production of Walang Sugat (roughly translated as having “no scars”). He played the lead boy who gets caught in the Philippine/Spanish war, and sadly dies ever so dramatically during a fight scene. The production toured the United States and Canada. It was his first real taste of life as a performer, but all he remembers from it was the cool Darth Vader action figure he got while in Toronto … and the great friends he made in the cast, all of whom were household names in the Philippines.
Since then, Mike has been in film, television and stage productions. He once played Pat Morita’s henchman in an independent film, as well as a photographer in a commercial starring Nicholas Cage. Other highlights include Imelda: A New Musical (East West Players), A Jive Bomber’s Christmas, and as core performing member of Cold Tofu, the nation’s oldest Asian American comedy improv group.
Mike has always had an affinity towards musicals and theater as the immediate response and energy from the audience is what captivates him to perform. There’s nothing better than a darkened theater, stage lights, and hearing the musical director give you the downbeat to start.
When not performing, Mike’s is a professional wedding and portrait photographer. Retaining the creativity garnered from performing, Mike loves creating modern, fun, and energetic photographs with his clients. The most rewarding part of the “job” is getting to know his clients while creating awesome photos. You can see his work at M. Palma Photography.