Daily Skimm Weekend·

Daily Skimm Weekend: Composer Helen Park is first Asian woman with a Tony Award nomination for best original score.

May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month — a time to learn about and celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. To do just that, we spoke with Helen Park, a co-composer of the Korean- and English-language musical “KPOP.” Not only is she the first Asian female composer on Broadway, but she’s also the first Asian woman with a Tony Award nomination for best original score. Here’s what she had to say about Asian American representation on Broadway, her experience working on “KPOP,” and much more…

Q: An incredibly small percentage of Broadway roles go to Asian American actors. What was it like to navigate the industry?

There’s so many Asian stories, and like any other race or community, there’s so many stories to be told. But there’s been a disconnect between what we see on Broadway and what we see in the real world. Part of the problem with the few shows that have centered on Asians were that they were predominantly written by white men. So I’ve always desired to see shows that felt relatable to me, shows where I felt really seen … But there were basically no opportunities for people like me … When I graduated from NYU’s Musical Theatre Writing Program, there was an off-Broadway theater, Ars Nova, that wanted to do a different kind of musical ... an immersive show based on K-pop. They were looking for composers, so I jumped in with this determination, like I have to grab this opportunity. But even then, I wasn’t thinking of Broadway. I was only focused on making a show that I could be proud of and that I knew was true from the perspective of my people and my culture.

Q: You have a couple “firsts” under your belt now. What message does that send to the Asian community?

Someone interviewed me right before “KPOP” went on Broadway and said, “You’re the first Asian female composer to write for Broadway, right?” ... That’s how I found out ... It’s mind-blowing when you think how late it is. But I feel like now that I have taken the first step, we can’t go back. Me being here proved that there are people who are capable of writing their own stories. And there is no need for other white voices to tell stories for us … Asians are the most populated race in the world. And there’s so many cultures within Asian culture. I never thought of myself as Asian until I [left] Korea. You’re part of this community, but it’s so diverse and so rich and so human. We need more of that.

Q: “KPOP” closed after 17 regular performances. What was that like?

That was definitely hard. I worked on this show for eight years … A lot of theater-goers weren’t familiar with K-pop music, and K-pop fans weren’t familiar with Broadway musicals, so it was unfamiliar territory for both. But by the end of the show, everyone was united and having a blast. Seeing that every day, and then seeing the disconnect of the financial reality of the show was shocking to me … But our three Tony noms speak volumes ... For a lot of our creatives, this was not just another job. For many, it was their Broadway debut. And they had the agency to tell the story of their own culture ... One thing I was afraid of when we closed was the fact it was already hard for Asian creatives to find opportunities on Broadway. I was fearful people might not take another chance on these kinds of stories. But the Tony noms are very encouraging. That’s something that can encourage people to do more — to write, to create, to produce, and to support more Asian-centric stories.

Q: What else can be done to increase representation on Broadway? 

It’s encouraging that people are finally having conversations around representation and inclusivity — that was nonexistent like 10 years ago. But just having Asian bodies on the stage is not going to be enough. Stories are told through words, music, and designs. There’s so many people involved in generating and telling the stories. So on and off stage, there needs to be more diverse voices and representation. Only then will we see truly authentic work.

In honor of APIDA Heritage Month, we spoke to other Asian American women about how they put themselves first. Read those interviews, here.

Psst, this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

what's happening

📺 In entertainment…

All good things must come to an end — and that includes a whole bunch of hit TV shows. Yesterday, the “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” said ‘thank you and goodnight.’ And in the coming days, “Ted Lasso,” “Barry,” and “Succession” will do the same. But before you spend hours speculating which sib (or non-sib) will take over Waystar Royco, maybe don’t. Now, if you need something to fill your next “bed rot” day: “Platonic” recently premiered on AppleTV+. Netflix’s “MerPeople” is making a splash. And “American Born Chinese” started a new chapter on Disney+. Speaking of streamers, HBO struggled to take it to the Max. Fingers crossed Paramount+ with Showtime will have a happier ending, err, beginning. Meanwhile, in music news, Celine Dion canceled the remaining dates of her Courage World Tour. The Foo Fighters drummed up a new bandmate ahead of their new album. And if you’re a Barbie girl in the Barbie world, this will definitely be your summer soundtrack.

👗 In style...

Bad news if you really love online shopping (so, all of us): Flexible return policies may no longer be in the bag. That’s something to keep in mind while shopping all the Memorial Day sales. Meanwhile, golf fashion is scoring a hole-in-one. The time is ripe for “tomato girls.” And summer boots may be the key to stepping up your fashion game. In beauty news, “expensive honey” is summer’s hottest — ahem, sweetest — hair color. But “earth blonde” may be a close second. Because, apparently, blondes do have more fun. Oh and move over outfit changes. A growing number of brides are making the (mid-wedding) cut.

🍪 In food…

As some restaurants are taking QR codes off the menu, others are adding brunch — seven days a week. And Kraft Singles are making it easier to get a slice of the action. Meanwhile, at home, martinis are going from glass to plate. The cottage cheese renaissance continues (case in point: this edible cookie dough). And next up could be artichokes. Not sure what to make with either ingredient? Buzzfeed’s AI chatbot (aka, Botatouille) is dishing out plenty of recipe recs. Also, turns out, no one really knows if eating fast is a bad thing. But yes, you still need to eat your greens.

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skimm picks

Skimm Picks

Here are today’s recs to help you live a smarter life…

1. An MDW sale to start your summer off strong.

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2. 25% off at Great Jones with code MDW25.

Grab baking sheets, frying pans, and more. Your kitchen needs the upgrade.

3. A great deal on a Hulu membership.

Sign up for Hulu (with ads) for $2/month for three months. That means you save 74% per month. It's streaming time.

Psst...looking for more discounts on brands Skimm'rs love? Check out all of our exclusive promo codes here.

weekend escape

Book covers of "Social Engagement," "Quietly Hostile," and "The Guest"

*Slams laptop shut until Monday.* We know the feeling. And we’ve got some tips for escape.

The unofficial start of summer is here — and with it comes many new page-turners to add to your TBR pile. Luckily, this weekend is the perfect time to get cracking. Because, if you’re going away, there’s no better travel companion than a good book. Or, if you’re staying put, a riveting read is one of the best ways to still get away. Whether you prefer juicy thrillers, steamy beach reads, or relatable essay collections, here are five books that’ll carry you away. (Oh and for all you speed readers, we’ve got more books to take you through Labor Day.)

Social Engagement by Avery Carpenter Forrey…Picture it: You’ve just married a handsome, successful guy, in a dream location…but somehow, it’s all wrong. In this darkly funny novel – written by an OG Skimm employee, BTW — we meet Callie in this very situation. The book takes us back through the preceding year, during which Callie moves in with her best friend from childhood, reignites an old flame with her friend’s cousin, and discovers family secrets lurking in forgotten drawers. If you’re looking for a page-turner with some bite, this one’s for you.


Weekend Escape 2

Quietly Hostile” by Samantha Irby…Fans of laughter, assemble. Samantha Irby is back with another essay collection that’s so relatable, so funny, so exactly what we needed right now that we could scream. With gems like “being perceived is excruciating, especially if you can’t go person to person explaining why you look like that,” it’s basically a printout of our inner monologue (but with better jokes). And yes, there is a full chapter where she suggests re-writes for specific episodes of “Sex and the City.” Purchase and read immediately, if not sooner.

Random House

Weekend Escape 3

The Guest” by Emma Cline…The author of “The Girls” is back with her second novel — and it’s a doozy. It follows 22-year-old Alex, who, a week before Labor Day, finds herself unceremoniously kicked out of the Hamptons house where she’s been staying with an older man. Rather than return to the city (where she no longer has a place to live), she drifts through the week on grift alone, attaching herself to various groups until she’s found out, then moving on to another. Alex is the perfect anti-hero, and this is a perfectly chilling, extremely addictive read.


Weekend Escape 5

Wannabe” by Aisha Harris…Pop culture can seem trivial, but the truth is that it shapes the world and helps us process our identities. That’s exactly what Aisha Harris, the co-host of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” unpacks in her debut essay collection. She covers what it means to be the token Black friend (with references to “Clueless” and “New Girl”) and how romantic comedies informed her approach to dating as a Black woman, and offers her thoughts on the Spice Girls, Stevie Wonder, and Chance the Rapper. If you’re looking for engaging nonfiction for your next trip or just love all things pop culture, add to cart ASAP.


Weekend Escape 4

Ripe” by Sarah Rose Etter…We all have our own version of “the grind” — but for Cassie, this novel’s protagonist, it’s particularly punishing. She works in Silicon Valley, where long hours are fueled by cocaine and cold brew. She feels alone most of the time, but is always accompanied by a black hole that lives in her head, changing size in relation to her mood. And when she gets pregnant, she has to make hard choices about where her future lies.

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