LOS ANGELES — When Dawn Dai walks through the doors of the Groundlings School in Los Angeles, one word comes to her mind.
"Dreams," Dai said. "Big dreams, and little Dawn on stage kind of dreams."
What You Need To Know
- The Groundlings Theatre and School offers quarterly diversity scholarships
- The program was created to promote inclusion and diversity in comedy, allowing for more progressive recruitment of diverse applicants
- For Dawn Dai, diversity in comedy — like entertainment in general — allows more people to come together and feel represented
- Nearly 600 scholarships have been awarded since the creation of the program and the Groundlings recently partnered with SNL to create an additional scholarship
Stepping into the Gary Austin Theater and onto its stage is her dream. The Groundlings Theater and School has been a huge part of her comedic dreams from the moment she watched her very first show three years ago.
"I saw Michael McDonald on stage," she remembered. "Now Michael McDonald, if you're unsure, he was on MADtv, and he was the character, Stuart. I said, 'Oh my gosh, what is this? I am home.'"
In the last year, her home became a little more tangible as she enrolled in the school, thanks to the Groundlings Diversity Scholarship program.
The program, which has awarded about 600 scholarships so far, was created to promote diversity and inclusion in an industry that has not always been known for embracing both. Over the last few years, however, Dai has seen change on the horizon.
"It takes people like me to do it," she said. "And with this program, while I do aspire to be on the stage and on SNL, it's the journey that's the experience. When they lay eyes on us, they allow us the ability to be seen," Dai continued. "It's something that is warranted, that's needed."
As she explained, it starts with programs such as the Groundlings Diversity Scholarship program.
Main company member, Leonard Robinson, said its traditional schools like the Groundlings that have been helping to move the needle forward in the comedy industry.
"If you're an institution and you're not trying to be more inclusive, you're on the clock," he said. "There's a big institutional push to make sure there's diversity."
To Robinson and Dai, diversity initiatives don't just benefit those who aspire to enter the field of comedy, but those wanting to experience it from the audience as well.
"Because if you get a bunch of people that look the same and have the same point of view, I start questioning why I need to keep coming," Robinson said.
As seen directly in the entertainment industry, embracing a diverse group of ideas, people and perspectives have become the norm — the idea of diversity championed and welcomed.
"Do you like to eat the same thing every day? Do you like to drink the same thing every day? No," Dai said. "So when we talk about diversity in comedy, it gives you different flavors, the communication and understanding of someone who may not look like you, but you still resonate."