Tony Award winner and San Francisco Native BD Wong, Arye Gross, Tim Liu and Ruibo Qian Set for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, March 6-31

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon announced the full cast and creative team for award-winning Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater (415 Geary St., San Francisco) March 6-31, 2019.

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

When a college basketball team from San Francisco is invited to China for an exhibition game in 1989, a smack-talking American coach prepares to take on his protégé-now grown and bent on crushing the Westerners. But after a public high school star from Chinatown joins the American team, his actions in Beijing become the accidental focus of attention, escalating the fractured history between the coaches. Funny, urgent, and contemporary, this slam dunk of a sports drama from Yee-developed at A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival in 2017-explores cultural identity, global politics, and the collision of cultures and generations. Under the direction of two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Peterson, The Great Leap soars through time and leaps across continents from the hardball courts of San Francisco’s Chinatown to a Beijing on the brink of a revolution, building tension right up to the buzzer. Press night for The Great Leap will be held on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Single tickets (ranging from $15-$110) are available at the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or online at www.act-sf.org. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice.

Following rave reviews and audience acclaim in The Great Leap at off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company this past spring, Tony Award winner and San Francisco native BD Wong (The Orphan of Zhao at A.C.T.; “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) will reprise his role as “Wen Chang.” Joining him are (in alphabetical order) Arye Gross (ABC’s “Castle”; Wild Oats at South Coast Repertory Theatre) as “Saul,” Tim Liu (A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; Incident at Hidden Temple at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre) as “Manford,” and Ruibo Qian (Bull in a China Shop at Lincoln Center Theater; Water by the Spoonful at The Old Globe) as “Connie.”

Says A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon: “I am delighted to have this San Francisco story-written by one of theater’s most exciting new voices and developed at A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival-play The Geary Theater. Yee’s basketball play puts a surprising search for self and belonging center court.”

The creative team for The Great Leap includes Robert Brill (Scenic Designer), Meg Neville (Costume Designer), Yi Zhao (Lighting Designer), Jake Rodriguez (Sound Designer), and Hana Sooyeon Kim (Video Designer).

In connection with The Great Leap, A.C.T. will offer numerous InterACT events-many of which are presented free of charge-that will give patrons opportunities to get closer to the action while having an entire night out at the theater. Visit act-sf.org/interact to learn more about subscribing to these events throughout the season: Bike to the Theater Night:

Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m.
Providing a greener alternative to theater transportation, A.C.T. and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offer free valet bike parking, as well as a special discount on tickets, for these select performances.

Prologue:
Tuesday, March 12, 5:30 p.m.
Before the curtain goes up, get a sneak peek at the artistic process at this fascinating preshow discussion with the director and artistic staff.

Audience Exchanges:
Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m. | Sunday, March 24, 2 p.m. | Wednesday, March 27, 2 p.m.
After the show, stick around for a lively Q&A session with the actors and artists who create the work onstage.

OUT with A.C.T.:
Wednesday, March 20, following the 8 p.m. performance
The best LGBT night in town! Mingle with the cast and enjoy free drinks and treats at this popular after-party.

Wente Vineyards Wine Series:
Tuesday, March 26, 7 p.m.
Before the show, raise a glass at this wine-tasting event featuring the Bay Area’s hottest local winery.

PlayTime:
Saturday, March 30, 12:45 p.m.
Before this matinee performance, get hands-on with the artists who make it happen at this interactive theater workshop. A.C.T.’s production of The Great Leap is made possible by executive producers The Milledge and Patti Hart Family; Jo S. Hurley; and Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation; and producers Lloyd and Janet Cluff; and David and Carla Riemer.

A.C.T.’s production of The Great Leap is made possible by executive producers Kevin and Celeste Ford; The Milledge and Patti Hart Family; Jo S. Hurley; and Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation; and producers Lloyd and Janet Cluff; and David and Carla Riemer.

Lia Chang
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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Lauren Yee, Martyna Majok, Heidi Schreck and More Among Finalists for Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Lauren Yee at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Lauren Yee at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2. Photo by Lia Chang

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting Award, the oldest and largest prize awarded to women playwrights. Chosen from over 150 nominated plays, the Finalists are:

Hilary Bettis (U.S.) 72 miles to go…
Jackie Sibblies Drury (U.S.) Fairview
Debbie Tucker Green (U.K.) ear for eye
Ella Hickson (U.K.) The Writer
Martyna Majok (U.S.) Sanctuary City
Lily Padilla (U.S.) How to Defend Yourself
Nina Raine (U.K.) Stories
Ella Road (U.K.) The Phlebotomist
Heidi Schreck (U.S.) What the Constitution Means to Me
Lauren Yee (U.S.) Cambodian Rock Band

The Winner of the 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be named at the Award Presentation, which honors all finalists, on Monday, March 4 at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000 and will also receive a signed print by renowned artist, Willem De Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional finalists will receive an award of $5,000.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Administered in Houston, New York and London, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is named after the noted American actor and writer who grew up in Houston and lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. Susan believed that society urgently needed more influence from talented women. The purpose of the prize is to honor excellence and to perpetuate the high standards, creativity and vitality that were characteristic of Susan’s life.

Over 450 plays have been honored as finalists of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Ten Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize has also fostered an interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries.

Winners of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize include Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, Annie Baker’s The Flick, Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Nell Dunn’s Steaming, Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (Dishonour), Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Gina Gionfriddo’s U.S. Drag, Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, and Moira Buffini’s Silence.

Former Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past forty-one years are a who’s who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, Sam Gold, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, David Hare, Jeremy Herrin, Garry Hynes, Judith Ivey, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Phyllida Lloyd, Francis McDormand, Janet McTeer, Tanya Moodie, Cynthia Nixon, Joan Plowright, Diana Rigg, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Max Stafford-Clark, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Daniel Sullivan, Jessica Tandy, Sigourney Weaver, August Wilson and George C. Wolfe among more than 200 artists and theatre professionals from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Judges for the 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are: Michael Buffong (U.K.), Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre; Maria Goyanes (U.S.), Artistic Director of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre; Tony and Olivier Award-winning stage director Marianne Elliott, OBE (U.K.), Playwright and winner of the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Nether, Jennifer Haley (U.S.), and celebrated stage, television, and film actors, Tamsin Grieg (U.K.) and Marin Ireland (U.S.).

Lia Chang
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

Francis Jue To Star In Lauren Yee’s KING OF THE YEES at San Francisco Playhouse, January 22 – March 2

Francis Jue. Photo by Lia Chang

San Francisco Playhouse is presenting Lauren Yee’s King of the Yees, headlined by Obie and Lucille Lortel Award-winning actor and San Francisco native Francis Jue, January 22 – March 2. The play, centered on San Francisco’s Chinatown, was inspired by Yee’s family and their deep connections within the community. Joshua Kahan Brody will direct the Playhouse production. San Francisco Playhouse is located at 450 Post St. Floor 2M, San Francisco CA 94102. Click here for tickets.

Francis Jue. Photo by Lia Chang
Francis Jue. Photo by Lia Chang

For nearly 20 years, playwright Lauren Yee’s father Larry (played by Francis Jue) has been a driving force in the Yee Family Association, a seemingly obsolescent Chinese American men’s club formed 150 years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush. But when her father goes missing, Lauren (played by Krystle Piamonte) must plunge into the rabbit hole of San Francisco’s Chinatown and confront a world both foreign and familiar. At once bitingly hilarious and heartbreakingly honest, King of the Yees is an epic joyride across cultural, national, and familial borders that explores what it truly means to be a Yee.

The cast features Francis Jue* as Larry Yee and includes Krystle Piamonte, Jomar Tagatac*, Rinabeth Apostol*, and Will Dao*.

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Lauren Yee, a Bay Area native, returns for her second San Francisco Playhouse production following 2015’s Glickman Award-winning in a word, which had its world premiere as part of the Playhouse’s Sandbox Series.

“I always felt that my father deserved to have a play written about him-so who better to write it than me?” said Yee. “King of the Yees is a love letter to my family, and to San Francisco and its vibrant and historic Chinatown community. It’s an extreme honor to be back in my hometown and making art for the people I grew up with.”

San Francisco Playhouse’s production of King of the Yees is made possible by Season Producer Andrew Teufel; Executive Producers Clay Foundation – West, William & Marsha Adler; Producers Margaret Sheehan, Betty & Clifford Nakamoto, Geoffrey Jue, Cynthia and David Bogolub, Phyllis & Jerry Rosenberg; Associate Producers Linda Brewer and Margot Golding.

Francis Jue is happy to return to hometown San Francisco, following last year’s Soft Power. Broadway: Pacific Overtures, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and M. Butterfly. Other favorite theatre credits include Yellow Face (Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards, plus Drama Desk and Drama League nominations), In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (AriZoni Award), Miss Saigon (Elliot Norton Award), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Drama-Logue Award), Cabaret (Bay Area Critics Circle Award), Falsettoland, Kung Fu, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labours Lost, Wild Goose Dreams, and Paper Dolls. Film and TV credits include Joyful Noise, and recurring roles on “Madam Secretary”, “Law & Order: SVU”, and “The Good Wife”.

Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered in March 2018 at South Coast Rep and will open at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, and Victory Gardens in 2019. Her play The Great Leap premiered this past season at Denver Center, Seattle Repertory, and Atlantic Theatre with 2019 productions slated for the Guthrie, American Conservatory Theater, Arts Club, and InterAct Theatre. Also upcoming for 2018-19: The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Recent honors include the Horton Foote Prize, Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, and the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List, as well as a finalist of both the ATCA/Steinberg Award and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize. She is a Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member and an alumni playwright of Playwrights Realm. She currently writes for Mixtape (Netflix). Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Repertory, and Trinity Repertory Company. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD. www.laurenyee.com

Joshua Kahan Brody’s directing credits include The Last Tiger in Haiti (La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego); True Believer (Theaterlab, New York); Fourteen Flights (Fringe NYC, Official Selection of the Fringe Encore Series; Award for Excellence in Directing); Three Plays in a Tattoo Shop (THE TRIP, San Diego); Pericles and Medea (University of Missouri-Kansas City) and Little Children Dream of God, A Man, His Wife and His Hat, The Santa Barbarians, Titus Andronicus and The Dybbuk (University of California-San Diego). He has assistant directed for productions on and off-Broadway as well as at regional theaters. Mr. Brody received his MFA from University of California-San Diego and his BA from Yale University. He is the recipient of a 2015 Princess Grace Award.

San Francisco Playhouse
Founded in 2003 and boasting 2800 subscribers, San Francisco Playhouse is the only mid-sized professional venue in downtown San Francisco; an intimate alternative to the larger more traditional Union Square Theater fare. Presenting a diverse range of plays and musicals, San Francisco Playhouse produces new works as well as re-imagined classics, “making the edgy accessible and the traditional edgy.” And with its bold Sandbox Series, dedicated to nurturing World Premieres, the Playhouse has become a significant player in developing new works as well. San Francisco Playhouse is committed to providing a creative home and inspiring environment where actors, directors, writers, designers, and theater lovers converge to create and experience dramatic works that celebrate the human spirit.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.

Francis Jue, Peter Kim, Michelle Krusiec, Jaygee Macapugay, Joél Pérez, Kendyl Ito, Lulu Fall and More in Rehearsal for WILD GOOSE DREAMS at The Public, Extended through December 16 

Award-winning Broadway Vet Francis Jue Talks about SOFT POWER, KING OF THE YEES, WILD GOOSE DREAMS, “Madam Secretary” and Getting Married 

Final Week to see Billy Bustamante, Kara Guy, Jon Hoche, Kendyl Ito, Francis Jue, Austin Ku, Raymond J. Lee, Alyse Alan Louis, Jaygee Macapugay, Daniel May, Paul HeeSang Miller, Kristen Faith Oei, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Geena Quintos, Conrad Ricamora, Trevor Salter and Emily Stillings in David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s SOFT POWER at San Francisco’s Curran 

BD Wong to Revisit Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, March 6 – March 31

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

Following rave reviews and audience acclaim at off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company this past spring, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon announced that Tony Award winner and San Francisco native BD Wong will reprise his role as ‘Wen Chang’ in award-winning Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater (415 Geary St., San Francisco) from Wednesday, March 6, through Sunday, March 31, 2019. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.

Says Wong: “I’m always looking for the rare work that’s as moving as it is funny, that has characters who are people you’ve never met before but whom you somehow immediately feel familiar with. This play, kind of miraculously, gives me all of it. I love Lauren Yee’s insightful vantage point that looks over family relationships and the unsettled scores such relationships keep, all wrapped up in a fresh athletic metaphor. It’s a play that is so specifically Chinese American, yet somehow all-embracing-and that isn’t an easy feat for a playwright. It is a gift of an opportunity to perform Lauren’s play on one of the great regional stages in the country.”

Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang

Adds MacKinnon: “The Great Leap was already going to be a celebration of San Francisco-a story set here, by a playwright from here, about a sport vital to here. We now add to that a homecoming for San Francisco’s own BD Wong. I cannot wait!”

When a college basketball team from San Francisco is invited to China for an exhibition game in 1989, a smack-talking American coach prepares to take on his protégé-now grown and bent on crushing the Westerners. But after a public high school star from Chinatown joins the American team, his actions in Beijing become the accidental focus of attention, escalating the fractured history between the coaches. Funny, urgent, and contemporary, this slam dunk of a sports drama from Yee-developed at A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival in 2017-explores cultural identity, global politics, and the collision of cultures and generations. Under the direction of two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Peterson, The Great Leap soars through time and leaps across continents from the hardball courts of San Francisco’s Chinatown to a Beijing on the brink of a revolution, building tension right up to the buzzer.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Wong is the only actor ever to have received all five major New York Theater awards for a single role-namely his performance in M. Butterfly (his Broadway debut): the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Theater World Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, and the Tony Award.

Wong gained notice on HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Oz” as the resilient prison priest (Father Ray) for the show’s six-season run. Then, for 11 seasons on the top-rated NBC series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” he played George Huang, an FBI forensic psychiatrist and expert on the criminal mind. Other television credits include NBC’s “Awake,” ABC’s “All-American Girl,” HBO’s telefilms And the Band Played On and The Normal Heart, as well as guest-starring roles on “Sesame Street,” “The X-Files,” “Madam Secretary,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” He most recently has been seen in two drastically different television roles simultaneously: as the nefarious Hugo Strange on “Gotham” and as the mysterious trans-female hacker Whiterose on “Mr. Robot.” For his work on the latter, he received an Emmy, Gold Derby, and a Critic’s Choice Award nominations.

Wong has appeared in more than 20 feature films, including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Jurassic World, Focus, The Space Between Us, Stay, The Salton Sea, Executive Decision, Seven Years in Tibet, Jurassic Park, Father of the Bride (1 & 2), and The Freshman. He can also be heard as the voice of Shang in the Disney animated films Mulan and Mulan II. He will next be seen in Birdbox.

Wong’s additional New York theater credits include The Great Leap at The Atlantic Theater Company, The Tempest, A Language of Their Own, As Thousands Cheer, Shanghai Moon, and the Broadway revivals of the musicals You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures (the latter for which he received a Drama League nomination for distinguished performance). He recently starred regionally in The Orphan of Zhao at La Jolla Playhouse and San Francisco’s A.C.T. In addition, he has starred in five productions of the one-man musical Herringbone, a project dear to his heart.

Wong holds an honorary M.F.A. from American Conservatory Theater.

Three-, four-, and five-play subscriptions are available and offer incredible savings, unparalleled access, exclusive benefits, and personalized customer service. Subscribers save as much as 50% off single-ticket prices. Students and educators are eligible to save up to half price on subscriptions, and senior discounts are available for certain series. A.C.T.’s competitive subscriber benefits include free ticket exchanges up to the day of your scheduled performance, guaranteed best seating, ticket insurance, access to convenient prepaid parking one block away from the theater, discounts for neighborhood restaurants, and the opportunity to subscribe to Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth theater guide for each show.

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Celebrate Opening Night of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP 

The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee

Lauren Yee’s CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND and Jaclyn Backhaus’s INDIA PALE ALE are 2018 Recipients of the Horton Foote Prize

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Mari Marchbanks announced today the 2018 recipients of the biennial Horton Foote Prize, named in honor of the late playwright, which recognizes excellence in American theater. The 2018 Prize for Outstanding New American Play, presented to a work produced in the 2016-17 or 2017-18 seasons, is awarded to Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. The 2018 Prize for Promising New American Play, presented to a previously unproduced work, is awarded to India Pale Ale by Jaclyn Backhaus.

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Their achievements will be celebrated at a private reception on Monday, October 15th at The Lotos Club (5 East 66th Street, New York City). Ms. Yee and Ms. Backhaus will each be presented with $25,000 and a limited edition of Keith Carter’s iconic photograph of Horton Foote, which is found in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The four judges of the 2018 Horton Foote Prize are two-time Tony Award-winning actress Judith Ivey, serving as Chair; New Georges Artistic Director and playwright Susan Bernfield (Sizzle Sizzle Fly, Tania in the Getaway Van, My Last Car); Two River Theater Artistic Director John Dias; and Ensemble Studio Theatre Director of New Play Development and Associate Director of the EST/Sloan Project Linsay Firman.

On behalf of her fellow judges, Chair Judith Ivey said, “The playwright is the beginning for all other theatre artists. The story, the characters, and the words give the rest of us the opportunity to share that story. It is truly an honor to have been part of this year’s Horton Foote Prize committee. We four all expressed our joy and passion for all six of the final choices. The playwrights all explored the human condition and social circumstances in such creative ways, always with a solid truth and desire to share the inhumanity each character was experiencing. Each one beautifully wrote of the challenges of todays’ world. Making a decision was very difficult for all four of us.”

Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Joe Ngo, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.
Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Joe Ngo, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.

Ms. Ivey continued, “Stylistically daring, Cambodian Rock Band deftly juxtaposes humor and rock music against the terrible truth of genocide. It is a beautiful story of love, forgiveness, and survival. Lauren Yee is a remarkable writer and Cambodian Rock Band is our choice for the 2018 Horton Foote Prize Award for Outstanding New American Play.”

Brooke Ishibashi, Joe Ngo, Jane Lui, Raymond Lee and Abraham Kim in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.
Brooke Ishibashi, Joe Ngo, Jane Lui, Raymond Lee and Abraham Kim in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered in March 2018 at South Coast Repertory and will open at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Victory Gardens in 2019. Part comedy, part mystery, part rock concert, Cambodian Rock Band is a thrilling story that toggles back and forth in time, as father and daughter face the music of the past. Neary, a young Cambodian American has found evidence that could finally put away the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman. But her work is hardly done. When Dad shows up unannounced – his first return trip to Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago – it’s clear this isn’t just a pleasure trip.

Joe Ngo and Brooke Ishibashi in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.
Joe Ngo and Brooke Ishibashi in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

India Pale Ale explores what it means to be a Sikh American in this day of racism and fear”, commented Ms. Ivey. “Gorgeously told through a Sikh family’s myth of a family member a century ago being a pirate and what that means in today’s world, framed the play as a modern-day fable rooted in stark reality at the same time. Jaclyn Backhaus has given us a story so richly poetic; it is ambitious and full of life. We are delighted to announce India Pale Ale as our selection for the 2018 Horton Foote Prize award for Promising New American Play.”

The world premiere of India Pale Ale at Manhattan Theatre Club will begin previews October 2, 2018 with opening night set for October 23, 2018 at New York City Center’s Stage I. In Ms. Backhaus’s poignant and smartly funny new play about legacy, life and longing, a tight-knit Punjabi community in a small Wisconsin town gathers to celebrate the wedding of a traditional family’s only son, just as their strong-willed daughter announces her plans to move away and open a bar. As they come together for feasts filled with singing and dancing, one generation’s cherished customs clash with another’s modern-day aspirations, and ghosts and pirates from the family’s past linger in everyone’s thoughts – until one sudden event changes everything.

Ms. Yee and Ms. Backhaus were nominated by South Coast Repertory and Manhattan Theatre Club, respectively. After a national reading committee narrowed the field of entries, ensuring that each script received multiple blind readings, a selection committee including Dramaturg, Tofte Lake Center Director, and University of Texas – Austin professor Liz Engelman, serving as Chair; Seattle-based stage director, producer, and educator Rosa Joshi; award-winning Seattle-based stage director Allison Narver; and American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Director of Dramaturgy and New Works Joy Meads; selected the top finalists to be presented to the judges.

Previous recipients of the Horton Foote Prize include Lynn Nottage for Ruined, Will Eno for Middletown, David Lindsay-Abaire for Good People, Naomi Wallace for The Liquid Plain, Dan O’Brien for The Body of an American, Suzan-Lori Parks for Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3), Jordan Harrison for Marjorie Prime, and Zayd Dohrn for The Profane.

The Horton Foote Prize is funded by the Greg and Mari Marchbanks Family Foundation of Austin, Texas.

Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered in March 2018 at South Coast Rep and will open at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Victory Gardens in 2019. Her play The Great Leap premiered this past season at Denver Center, Seattle Repertory, and Atlantic Theater with 2019 productions slated for the Guthrie, American Conservatory Theater, Arts Club, and InterAct Theatre. Also upcoming for 2018-19: King of the Yees at Baltimore Center Stage and San Francisco Playhouse, and The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Recent honors include the Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, an upcoming Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List, as well as a finalist of both the ATCA/Steinberg Award and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize. She is a Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member and an alumni playwright of Playwrights Realm. She received her BA from Yale University, and her MFA in playwriting from UCSD. Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Repertory, and Trinity Repertory Company. www.laurenyee.com

Jaclyn Backhaus is a playwright of Punjabi, German, and desert botanical descent. Her play India Pale Ale will receive its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in Fall of 2018 after development at Powerhouse with New York Stage & Film. Select plays: Men on Boats (NYT Critics’ Pick, Clubbed Thumb & Playwrights Horizons, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Playwriting Award Finalist, published by Dramatists Play Service, Kilroys List 2015), Folk Wandering (Pipeline Theatre Company), You Across From Me (Humana Festival of New Plays), People Doing Math Live! (Under The Radar Festival), and You on the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, The Hypocrites in Chicago). Jaclyn was the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb and is currently a playwright-in-residence at Lincoln Center. BFA: NYU, where she now teaches. She is co-founder of FRESH GROUND PEPPER, a New York-based arts incubator established in 2009. She lives in Queens with her husband, theater director Andrew Scoville, and their son Ernie.

Horton Foote won the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Young Man From Atlanta and received two Academy Awards for his screenplays for the films To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies. His work has also been produced on Broadway, off-Broadway as well as in theaters throughout the United States. His many honors, in addition to the Pulitzer and Academy Awards, include Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Lortel Awards, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Drama and the 2000 National Medal of Arts Award from President Bill Clinton. He is also a member of The Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2008, his play Dividing the Estate won the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Best Play Awards for its Off-Broadway premiere by Primary Stages. In 2008, the play transferred to Broadway under the auspices of Lincoln Center Theater, earning Foote his second Best Play Tony nomination. In 2009-2010, his epic masterwork, The Orphans’ Home Cycle was co-produced by Hartford Stage Company and Signature Theatre Company, and received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Lucille Lortel Award. In 2013, The Trip to Bountiful was revived on Broadway (winning a Best Actress Tony Award for Cecily Tyson), and premiered in 2014 as a new Lifetime film, earning two Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Movie. His memoirs, Farewell and Beginnings, are published by Scribner.

Lauren Yee, Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo and BD Wong at The GREAT LEAP

Ned Eisenberg, Playwright Lauren Yee, BD Wong Director Taibi Magar, Ali Ahn, Tony Adian Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Atlantic Theater Company’s New York premiere production of The Great Leap, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Taibi Magar, will end the extended run on  Sunday, June 24th at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2 (330 West 16th Street). Click here for tickets.

Ned Eisenberg, Playwright Lauren Yee, BD Wong Director Taibi Magar, Ali Ahn, Tony Adian Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Ned Eisenberg, Playwright Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Director Taibi Magar, Ali Ahn, Tony Aidan Vo. Photo by Lia Chang

The Great Leap stars Ali Ahn (“The Path” on Hulu), Ned Eisenberg (Six Degrees of Separation), (Pan Asian Rep’s NoNo Boy), and Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee BD Wong (“Mr. Robot,” “Law & Order: SVU,” M. Butterfly).

Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang

San Francisco, spring 1989. Manford Lum, locally renowned on the sidewalk basketball courts of Chinatown, talks his way onto a college team, just before they travel to Beijing for a “friendship” game. When they arrive, China is in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution era, and Manford must juggle international politics and his own personal history.

Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Ali Ahn, Tony Aidan Vo, Taibi Magar and members of the Yee Association. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Ali Ahn, Tony Aidan Vo, Taibi Magar and members of the Yee Association. Photo by Lia Chang

The Great Leap features scenic design by Takeshi Kata, costume design by Tilly Grimes, lighting design by Eric Southern, sound design and original music by Broken Chord, projection design by David Bengali, movement direction by Jesse Perez, and casting by Caparelliotis Casting: David Caparelliotis, CSA; Lauren Port, CSA; and Joseph Gery.

The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee 

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Celebrate Opening Night of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Set for New York Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at Atlantic Theater Company

Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP, is among 10 Finalists Selected for the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 

Plays by Lauren Yee, Kirsten Childs, Dominique Morisseau, Ayad Akhtar and Lisa Loomer are Finalists for the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama 

Bob Ari, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor and Joseph Steven Yang Set for DCPA/Seattle Rep’s World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

Production Photos: Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji in World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory 

David Henry Hwang Presents 2017 Kesselring Prize to Lauren Yee at National Arts Club 

Francis Jue, Stephenie Soohyun Park, Daniel Smith, Angela Lin and Rammel Chan in World Premiere of KING OF THE YEES by Lauren Yee at Goodman Theatre 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

Photos: Lia Chang

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Party Photos: BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Celebrate Opening Night of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

Tony Aidan Vo, BD Wong, Ali Ahn, Director Taibi Magar and Ned Eisenberg. Photo by Lia Chang

Last night, Atlantic Theater Company celebrated the opening night of the New York premiere production of The Great Leap, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Taibi Magar at Jake’s Saloon.

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo and Ali Ahn. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo and Ali Ahn. Photo by Lia Chang

The Great Leap stars Ali Ahn (“The Path” on Hulu), Ned Eisenberg (Six Degrees of Separation), (Pan Asian Rep’s NoNo Boy), and Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee BD Wong (“Mr. Robot,” “Law & Order: SVU,” M. Butterfly).

Jeffory Lawson, Mary McCann, Neil Pepe. Photo by Lia Chang
Jeffory Lawson, Mary McCann, Neil Pepe. Photo by Lia Chang

The production has been extended through Sunday, June 24th at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2 (330 West 16th Street). Click here for tickets.

Tony Aidan Vo, BD Wong, Ali Ahn, Director Taibi Magar and Ned Eisenberg. Photo by Lia Chang
Tony Aidan Vo, BD Wong, Ali Ahn, Director Taibi Magar and Ned Eisenberg. Photo by Lia Chang

San Francisco, spring 1989. Manford Lum, locally renowned on the sidewalk basketball courts of Chinatown, talks his way onto a college team, just before they travel to Beijing for a “friendship” game. When they arrive, China is in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution era, and Manford must juggle international politics and his own personal history.

The Great Leap features scenic design by Takeshi Kata, costume design by Tilly Grimes, lighting design by Eric Southern, sound design and original music by Broken Chord, projection design by David Bengali, movement direction by Jesse Perez, and casting by Caparelliotis Casting: David Caparelliotis, CSA; Lauren Port, CSA; and Joseph Gery.

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Click below for my in-depth profile on Lauren.

The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee 

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Set for New York Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at Atlantic Theater Company

Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP, is among 10 Finalists Selected for the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 

Plays by Lauren Yee, Kirsten Childs, Dominique Morisseau, Ayad Akhtar and Lisa Loomer are Finalists for the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama 

Bob Ari, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor and Joseph Steven Yang Set for DCPA/Seattle Rep’s World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

Production Photos: Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji in World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory 

David Henry Hwang Presents 2017 Kesselring Prize to Lauren Yee at National Arts Club 

Francis Jue, Stephenie Soohyun Park, Daniel Smith, Angela Lin and Rammel Chan in World Premiere of KING OF THE YEES by Lauren Yee at Goodman Theatre 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo in Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2, Opens June 4

BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

Atlantic Theater Company is presenting the New York premiere production of The Great Leap, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Taibi Magar.

BD Wong and Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong and Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

The Great Leap stars Ali Ahn (“The Path” on Hulu), Ned Eisenberg (Six Degrees of Separation), (Pan Asian Rep’s NoNo Boy), and Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee BD Wong (“Mr. Robot,” “Law & Order: SVU,” M. Butterfly).

Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

The production, which opens on Monday, June 4th, will play through Sunday, June 24th, 2018 Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2 (330 West 16th Street). Click here for tickets.

BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

San Francisco, spring 1989. Manford Lum, locally renowned on the sidewalk basketball courts of Chinatown, talks his way onto a college team, just before they travel to Beijing for a “friendship” game. When they arrive, China is in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution era, and Manford must juggle international politics and his own personal history.

 Ali Ahn. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ali Ahn. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

The Great Leap features scenic design by Takeshi Kata, costume design by Tilly Grimes, lighting design by Eric Southern, sound design and original music by Palmer Hefferan, projection design by David Bengali, movement direction by Jesse Perez, and casting by Caparelliotis Casting: David Caparelliotis, CSA; Lauren Port, CSA; and Joseph Gery.

 Ned Eisenberg and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ned Eisenberg and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Ali Ahn and Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ali Ahn and Ned Eisenberg. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Tony Aidan Vo and Ali Ahn. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tony Aidan Vo and Ali Ahn. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Tony Aidan Vo and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tony Aidan Vo and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tony Aidan Vo. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
 Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo and BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster
BD Wong. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee 

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Set for New York Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at Atlantic Theater Company

7-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 

Plays by Lauren Yee, Kirsten Childs, Dominique Morisseau, Ayad Akhtar and Lisa Loomer are Finalists for the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama 

Bob Ari, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor and Joseph Steven Yang Set for DCPA/Seattle Rep’s World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

Production Photos: Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji in World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory 

David Henry Hwang Presents 2017 Kesselring Prize to Lauren Yee at National Arts Club 

Francis Jue, Stephenie Soohyun Park, Daniel Smith, Angela Lin and Rammel Chan in World Premiere of KING OF THE YEES by Lauren Yee at Goodman Theatre 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee

Playwright Lauren Yee at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Lauren Yee at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Lauren Yee at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Lauren Yee is having a prodigious and productive year.

In January, Ms. Yee’s play The Great Leap, submitted by Denver Center Theatre Company, was chosen from 150 submissions to make the top ten list of finalists for the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Award and her play King of the Yees was named a finalist for the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize given annually through Columbia University to a new musical or play that, in the words of the Prize’s mission statement, “…enlists theater’s power to explore the past of the United States, to participate meaningfully in the great issues of our day through the public conversation, grounded in historical understanding, that is essential to the functioning of a democracy.”

Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP, is among 10 Finalists Selected for the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 

Plays by Lauren Yee, Kirsten Childs, Dominique Morisseau, Ayad Akhtar and Lisa Loomer are Finalists for the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama 

In the first rehearsal with the cast and creative team of DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Great Leap' by Lauren Yee on Jan. 9, 2018. Photo by John Moore
In the first rehearsal with the cast and creative team of DCPA Theatre Company’s ‘The Great Leap’ by Lauren Yee on Jan. 9, 2018. Photo by John Moore

From February through April, the co-production of the world premiere of The Great Leap, featuring Bob Ari, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor and Joseph Steven Yang played at the Denver Center, followed by a run at Seattle Rep under the direction of Eric Ting. In March, the world premiere of the Chay Yew helmed Cambodian Rock Band featuring Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji, played to sold-out houses at South Coast Rep.

From the first rehearsal: actors Brooke Ishibashi, Jane Lui, Abraham Kim, Joseph Ngo, Daisuke Tsuji and Raymond Lee with playwright Lauren Yee (center). Courtesy of Facebook
From the first rehearsal of CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND: actors Brooke Ishibashi, Jane Lui, Abraham Kim, Joseph Ngo, Daisuke Tsuji and Raymond Lee with playwright Lauren Yee (center). Courtesy of Facebook

Bob Ari, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor and Joseph Steven Yang Set for DCPA/Seattle Rep’s World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP

Production Photos: Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji in World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory 

In May, Ms. Yee’s seven-year residency for New Dramatists was announced, which will feature an evening of readings and celebration at the annual New Playwright Welcome in the fall.

J. Julian Christopher, Sarah Gancher, Mike Lew, Vickie Ramirez, Tammy Ryan, Susan Soon He Stanton, and Lauren Yee Join New Dramatists’ Resident Playwright Company

Lauren Yee and David Henry Hwang at the 2017 Kesselring Awards at the National Arts Club in New York on November 5, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee and David Henry Hwang at the 2017 Kesselring Awards at the National Arts Club in New York on November 5, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

I became familiar with Ms. Yee’s singular voice when Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang presented her with the 2017 Kesselring Prize last November, an award which included a $25,000 check and a two week residency in the historic clubhouse of the National Arts Club in order to develop her work. The ceremony included a reading of excerpts of her plays.

2017 Kesselring Prize winner Lauren Yee is flanked by Atlantic Theater's Director of New Play Development Abigail Katz, Artistic Director Neil Pepe, Managing Director Jeffory Lawson and director Michael Parva. Photo by Lia Chang
2017 Kesselring Prize winner Lauren Yee is flanked by Atlantic Theater’s Director of New Play Development Abigail Katz, Artistic Director Neil Pepe, Managing Director Jeffory Lawson and director Michael Parva at the National Arts Club in New York on November 5, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Each year, the National Arts Club invites theaters across the country to nominate an emerging playwright for the Kesselring Prize who is poised for a higher national profile through his or her growing body-of-work. Atlantic Theater Company nominated Ms. Yee, who earned the Kesselring for her play The Great Leap.

David Henry Hwang Presents 2017 Kesselring Prize to Lauren Yee at National Arts Club 

Director Taibi Magar in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Director Taibi Magar in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Obie Award winning director Taibi Magar (Is God Is, Master, Underground Railroad Game) is at the helm of the New York premiere of The Great Leap featuring Ali Ahn (“The Path” on Hulu), Ned Eisenberg (Six Degrees of Separation), Tony Aidan Vo (Pan Asian Rep’s NoNo Boy), and Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee BD Wong (“Mr. Robot,” “Law & Order: SVU,” M. Butterfly), currently in previews at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2 (330 West 16th Street).

Sunday, May 27th is Asian American night at The Great Leap. After the 7:30pm performance, there will be a panel discussion about the play as well as representation in the arts and will feature Ms. Yee, Diep Tran (Senior Editor of American Theatre), Kristen Leahey (dramaturg of the Denver and Seattle productions), Ran Xia (assistant director of the Atlantic production). Abby Katz, Atlantic’s Director of New Play Development, will moderate.

Opening night of The Great Leap is set for Monday, June 4th, and the play has been extended through Sunday, June 24th. Click here for tickets.

Director Taibi Magar and BD Wong in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Director Taibi Magar and BD Wong in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Inspired by events in the life of Ms. Yee’s father, The Great Leap follows an American college basketball team journey to Beijing for a “friendship” exhibition game in 1989, and examines the drama on the court that goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard.

Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aiden Vo in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium.

Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, BD Wong and Tony Aidan Vo in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, BD Wong and Tony Aidan Vo in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

I sat down with the San Francisco native in the Atlantic Theater rehearsal studios to chat about her whirlwind year.

Lia: What was the development process for The Great Leap and Cambodian Rock Band?
Lauren: I started working on Cambodian Rock Band and The Great Leap in the same year at the end of 2015. Both them of them kind of sprung into my imagination and were two worlds which required very different research on my part. It’s bittersweet because I am at the end of that journey of discovering what those pieces are two and a half years later. What was really nice is that they were both commissions that required a lot of work but eventually went through the whole process with the theaters that they were commissioned by. Denver Center and South Coast Rep saw the pieces through from beginning to end. That doesn’t always happen. A theater commissions a piece and it is perfectly acceptable and normal if they say, “Thank you for turning that in. Good luck.” The fact that we’ve been able to not only get them to a good place but also produce them in this wonderful way so quickly has been really gratifying and unusual.

Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How did your work come to the attention of these theater companies?
Lauren: I think their literary department knew about me for a while. One of my early plays got sent to them. A long time ago. I think I’d been on their radar for a while. I can pinpoint it very specifically when some sort of momentum happened.

In 2015, I got invited to Hedgebrook, this residency for female writers on Whidbey Island in Washington, for their playwriting festival. I got invited through my commission with the Goodman Theater for The King of the Yees. Denver Center, South Coast Rep and Atlantic Theater were there. It is a very leisure island with it’s own garden and they serve you meals. You sit in a barn and you read plays. It was this lovely weekend where these theater companies, even if I had been on their radar, got to meet my work in a really warm and comfortable way that made enough of an impression on them for both theaters to commission me. Those was the seeds of that relationship. Later that year I got to tackle the beginning of what those plays would be. I was fortunate to  have the Goodman be the organization that brought me in.

Lia: What inspired you to write The Great Leap and how has it evolved?
Lauren: The genesis for The Great Leap is that my father, before he had kids, was only good at one thing – basketball. He was never good enough that anyone was going to pay him to do it. He wasn’t joining the NBA; he wasn’t playing at the college level. He was good enough that he could dominate pickup games in San Francisco growing up.

My dad grew up in this housing project in San Francisco Chinatown in the 70’s at a time where all the kids played basketball. He’s 6’1” and fairly tall amongst his friends. He played center and he got to travel. He played a lot in these Chinese and Chinese and Japanese American leagues that would exist in San Francisco or Oakland. Sometimes they got to go to Chicago or LA. One time they went to Taiwan to play this Taiwanese high school team.

In ’81, his coach got invited to bring over a team from America to play a series of exhibition games against the best teams in China. It was ’81.  It had been 10 years since Nixon had come but Western tourism was not enormous in China. I’m not sure if it was his first trip to China or his second or third. For two weeks, my dad played exhibition games throughout the country. These games were broadcast on American television. My mom remembers her sister coming over and telling her, “Oh, Larry’s on TV.”

They just got demolished by the Chinese teams because they were playing the best teams in China. They were playing the top high school team, the top college team, and players from the Chinese Olympic team. My father remembers one player in Beijing, his last name was Moy, and he was 7’6”. He was a center for the Beijing team that they played against. He was 350 lbs. My father remembers that it was like Mickey Mouse being run after by one of those other giant characters because he literally weighed twice as much as my dad. Nobody wanted to guard this guy, he was so enormous. They got destroyed.

Each city had a different idea about what basketball was. The Shanghai teams were really fast. The Beijing teams were super tall. It wasn’t until they got to Hong Kong when he recounted, “Oh, thank God, the players are our height. My Dad’s team was all Toisan or Cantonese and the children of those immigrants who were shorter. They won by two points. That was a trip that I’d always knew about growing up. I thought it would be interesting to explore that more.

Basketball was a world that I didn’t know a lot before I started this play. It was a sport that I wasn’t really interested in. In writing this play, I had to very quickly metabolize what basketball was and learn its philosophy. It was a very apt metaphor for this story of diplomacy, two countries coming together,  rivalry and competition in history and politics.

BD Wong in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How did you choose this cast?
Lauren: We had conversations with the casting director and director Taibi Magar about who we imagined. I thought BD Wong would be perfect for this. I wondered what he was up to. I thought there was something about his character and this character that felt like it would be a good match, so we offered it to him. He accepted and we are very lucky. Ned Eisenberg, I met at the Kesselring Awards.

BD Wong and Ned Eisenberg in rehearsal for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong and Ned Eisenberg in rehearsal for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 17, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What do you hope audiences will take away from The Great Leap?
Lauren: I hope that they have a new perspective on history that may seem very familiar but distant from themselves. I hope that they are able to see what the play is trying to say about the power of a single person in activism. I’m also hoping that they’ll appreciate people in roles that are unexpected but seem very natural to me.

Inspiration wall for Lauren Yee's THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic's rehearsal studio on May 10, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Inspiration wall for Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP in Atlantic’s rehearsal studio on May 10, 2018 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Growing up, because of my father who had a bunch of friends who are also basketball players, and I come from a real tall family. Chinese Americans playing basketball is the most normal thing in the world to me. It’s something that I forget that it may seem unusual to people. Growing up, every basketball player I knew was Chinese.

Lia: Where did you grow up in San Francisco?
Lauren: Half of the time I lived in a flat on Jackson Street. It’s like a one-way cable car track road and we lived there for about 10 years. The other half we lived in a house in the Richmond District off of Geary, where my parents still live. I went to Lowell for High School, Presidio for middle school.

Lia: What was it like for you growing up in San Francisco as a Chinese American?
Lauren: Growing up in San Francisco, there are two things you don’t realize when you are growing up there. First of all, San Francisco is a great city. If you’ve never lived anywhere else you don’t know that every place is not like hills and blue skies. And the air, the air feels very different. My brother once lived in South Korea and describes the air in Busan as being like San Francisco. The other thing is that unlike other Asian Americans, I didn’t grow up as a minority. If I felt on the margins, I think it was because I was American born or that I wasn’t the child of immigrants. I went to schools that were somewhere between half or two-thirds Asian American always. A bigger separation in terms of my identity was not being able to speak Chinese versus my classmates. That’s a much bigger divide as opposed to people that grew up in Oklahoma where there was one Asian kid.

Lia: Can you pinpoint when you decided you were going to be a writer, a storyteller, and a playwright?
Lauren: I always knew I was going to be a storyteller. As soon as I could read. I was an early reader and an early writer. As soon as I could do that, I would be writing stories. I was already writing stories even before I could write out full words. It’s something that I’ve always done. In terms of finding theater and dramatic writing, that was something that didn’t happen until high school.

Lia: Was it a particular class, teacher or event that happened?
Lauren: I wasn’t a drama kid nerd. In the beginning of the Internet, a family might share an email address, like one person might have an email address and everyone else might use that? I would use my father’s email address in high school. One day I was checking his email to see if anyone had contacted me. No one had emailed me but a colleague of his had forwarded him a call for short plays. An Asian American theater company in San Francisco was looking for short plays. I read the email and thought, “I could write a play.” I’d never written a play before. I wrote it and I sent it in. A couple of weeks later, they said they wanted to do a reading of my short play, Remembering the Zodiac, at their Lunar New Year event.

I have this theory that writers write the same story over and over and over. I think there are very different circumstances but there are certain themes and relationships and arcs that haunt us that we constantly tell over and over.

Within this piece, as early as it was, has all the themes that I am interested in as a writer- we’re in the past, we’re in the present; family relationships; the transmission of information between generations.

I asked my Dad for a ride to a rehearsal where they were going to do a table read of all the pieces. As soon as my father hears that I want to be dropped off at night to a room full of adults that I’ve never met, he said, “You can go, but I’m going to come with you.” It was mortifying as a teenager. We park, we get there. They’re all adults and I’m 15. My dad’s sitting there. It was embarrassing. We sit there and listen to all they plays. That was my first experience in theater. It was that kind of thing where you see everyone around a table and you see that this is all you need to put on a play. This is wonderful. I thought I’d love to do this again and I need to figure out ways to make this happen again.

Jennifer Lim, Joe Ngo, Daniel K. Isaac, Francis Jue, Lauren Yee, Tobias C. Wong, Jeena Yi and Ned Eisenberg. Photo by Lia Chang
Jennifer Lim, Joe Ngo, Daniel K. Isaac, Francis Jue, Lauren Yee, Tobias C. Wong, Jeena Yi and Ned Eisenberg at the 2017 Kesselring Awards at the National Arts Club in New York on November 5, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: In your acceptance speech for The Kesselring Award, you gave shout outs to the actors who have helped you shape your plays.
Lauren: I love including other people as soon as possible in the process. It helps me so much to figure out what should be in the piece. You get to see the imprint of different people and different people’s voices on a piece and I find it very exciting.

Francis Jue (Larry) and Stephenie Soohyun Park (Lauren) in the world premiere of King of the Yees, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. Photo by Liz Lauren
Francis Jue (Larry) and Stephenie Soohyun Park (Lauren) in the world premiere of King of the Yees, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. Photo by Liz Lauren

Lia: Another theme in your plays is father/daughter relationships.  
Lauren: In general, I find parent/child relationships very interesting. No matter who you are, everybody has some relationship or some feelings about their parents even if they don’t have kids. I’m really interested in parent/child relationships with a lot of affection and yet… I think it is something more people can relate to than the August Osage County version of parent/child relationships where they just literally want this person to die. Recently, starting with King of the Yees, not all of the pieces I’ve written are father/daughter relationships, but there is something that I’ve been able to pull out of my own experiences when thinking about what would make a dramatic situation in a play because my father is such a character. There are so many things about him that I wonder about or just don’t understand.

Francis Jue, Stephenie Soohyun Park, Daniel Smith, Angela Lin and Rammel Chan in World Premiere of KING OF THE YEES by Lauren Yee at Goodman Theatre 

Lia: Your father was present at your very first theatrical experience. He is untraditional as a Chinese American father because he has supported you throughout your arts career. He plays very heavily in your plays. How does he feel about that?
Lauren:  For a long time I didn’t tell him that King of the Yees was going to be about him. I told him it was a play about Yees. I was doing Yee research. He was very helpful. He would say, “ You should talk to so and so Yee over here.”

I figured at some point I would need to tell him that there is a play about him because he’s going to find out eventually or maybe he suspects. I was visiting San Francisco one time and we were driving. A lot of our conversations happen side by side in cars. I said, “So this King of the Yees play, you’re in it.” He’s like. “Oh?” His response was, “I’m not going to tell you what to write about.” And that was it. There was nothing else. That is very typical of who my father is my parents, both of them, are very supportive in practical ways. They’re not creatures of the theater themselves. Maybe they’ll see Jersey Boys or The Lion King and my plays but they are not people who regularly see theater and subscribe to the New Yorker and read the review. They are very practically helpful. If there is something I need, or there is support I need, or when I was younger –“You need to hang up your posters, this is how we are going to do it.”

In that way, the lessons that I’ve taken from my father who is such a creature of the community and loves interacting with people, that’s one thing that I feel like I’ve gotten from him is the idea of how do you gather people, how do you make them feel welcome. Those are lessons that are always very helpful in the theater. Being able to see potential in an actor- that’s special.

Lia: What was his reaction to the King of the Yees?
Lauren: He came to the workshop production in Chicago. At first somebody said, “Do you want to sit by your Dad?” I said, “Nope! I want to be several seats down from him.”

My father shows his love in terms of tasks. “Do you need a ride to the airport? Do you need me to pick up some food for you?” That’s how he shows he loves you. There are not going to be long conversations about this is how it made me feel. The love is assumed. I think he enjoyed it. I asked him what his favorite parts were. There is a fight choreography sequence that he really loved because it reminded him of The Matrix. Some of the stuff that actually happened to him in the play, “He said that was scary ‘cause that was real.” It’s not like we’ve talked about the play a lot. He’s been very supportive in his own way.

He did see a reading of The Great Leap, which is less of the story of Larry Yee and more of the story of people like Larry Yee who would play basketball in pickup games in San Francisco. After he saw it, he said, “Oh are we done? Have we written enough plays about dad?” He’s got a lot of good stories.

Lia: When you were first casting Cambodian Rock Band, you were told that it might be hard for you to find Asian Americans to play in a rock band but you have a phenomenal cast. What has it felt like for you to process?
Lauren: It feels really good to employee a lot of Asian American actors in roles that are distinctive and that are challenging for them. Just because someone is great at guitar and can sing – it’s an added bonus that you can do those things really well, but here is something that’s going to give you new skills and showcase you in this particular way. That feels really great.

Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Joe Ngo, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.
Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Joe Ngo, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.

Being able to do Cambodian Rock Band in Orange County, which is so close to Long Beach because you have the largest population of Cambodian Americans in the country in Long Beach, it made that particularly special. I found that the younger generation of Asian Americans when invited and they feel it is worth their time, will come out and will totally support the work in droves. It has to feel like something you can’t miss.

Joe Ngo and Brooke Ishibashi in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.
Joe Ngo and Brooke Ishibashi in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

Cambodian Rock Band was developed through the Crossroads Program, which is about giving a playwright the opportunity to deeply investigate Orange County, in whatever way. When I did my initial research there was a lot of the stuff that came up. Over and and over for me was the Cambodian American community and Cambodian Rock music. But at the same time, I could have written about anything. There were no parameters. My play is not set in Orange County.

Chay Yew will direct it at Oregon Shakespeare Festival starting next March and that will run until the end of October. There will be a production of Victory Gardens directed by Marty Lyons in the spring. It will get to live again, which is really nice.

Joe Ngo and Raymond Lee in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.
Joe Ngo and Raymond Lee in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

Lia: How was castmember Joe Ngo integral to the development of Cambodian Rock Band
Lauren: Joe is an actor that I have known for a couple of years. I met him when he was in grad school in Seattle. When I started working on CRB, he was really excited to hear about the piece. He said, “This is my story. I’m Chinese but my parents were born in Cambodia, they lived through the labor camps. This is my story.”

For the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to build this play around him and his talents. He also happens to play electric guitar. He owns the Gibson that he plays in the show. He is someone that embodies everything you need in that protagonist.

Other people will play it. There are plenty of Asian American actors who have the skills to play it but there was something really special about being able to do the play with him first, knowing his family history. This play allowed him to get more closely in touch with his Cambodian roots. His family is ethnically Chinese even though his parents were born and raised in Cambodia, went through the trauma that so many other Cambodians went through, but at the same time he’s always felt not quite sure of his relationship to that history because he is not ethnically Cambodian. It’s wonderful to see the ways he’s been able to give voice to that story and connect with the audience members.

Tickets for The Great Leap are now on sale. Regular tickets begin at $50. Order online at atlantictheater.org, by calling OvationTix at 866-811-4111, or in person at the Linda Gross Theater box office (336 West 20th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues).

Playwright Lauren Yee received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and her MFA in playwriting from UCSD, where she studied under Naomi Iizuka.

Lauren Yee’s play King of the Yees premiered at The Goodman Theatre and Center Theatre Group, followed by productions at ACT Theatre and Canada’s National Arts Centre. Upcoming productions include Cambodian Rock Band at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Victory Gardens; The Great Leap at the Guthrie, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre; King of the Yees at Baltimore Center Stage, SF Playhouse; and The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian, Mu Performing Arts), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, Moxie, PlayPenn), Hookman (Encore, Company One), In a Word (SF Playhouse, Cleveland Public, Strawdog), and Samsara (Victory Gardens, O’Neill Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival) and The Tiger Among Us (MAP Fund, Mu).

She was a Dramatists Guild fellow, a MacDowell fellow, a MAP Fund grantee, a member of The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, a Time Warner Fellow at the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab, the Shank playwright-in-residence at Second Stage Theatre, a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer, and the Page One resident playwright at Playwrights Realm.

She is the winner of the Kesselring Prize and the Francesca Primus Prize. She has been a finalist for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the ATCA/Steinberg Award, the Jerome Fellowship, the PONY Fellowship, the Princess Grace Award, the Sundance Theatre Lab, the Wasserstein Prize. Her play The Hatmaker’s Wife was an Outer Critics Circle nominee for the John Gassner Award for best play by a new American playwright. Her work is published by Samuel French.

Ms. Yee is a member of the Ma-Yi Theatre Writers Lab and will be a 2018/2019 Hodder fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. She is currently under commission from the Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center Theatre/LCT3, Mixed Blood Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and Trinity Rep. Her work is published by Samuel French. www.laurenyee.com.

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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J. Julian Christopher, Sarah Gancher, Mike Lew, Vickie Ramirez, Tammy Ryan, Susan Soon He Stanton, and Lauren Yee Join New Dramatists’ Resident Playwright Company

New Dramatists, an artistic home and developmental laboratory for professional playwrights, is proud to announce the addition of seven writers to its illustrious, dynamic resident playwright company: J. Julian Christopher, Sarah Gancher, Mike Lew, Vickie Ramirez, Tammy Ryan, Susan Soon He Stanton, and Lauren Yee. They will be in-residence through the year 2025. These supremely talented theatre artists were selected by a seven-person committee of New Dramatists current residents, alumni, and outside theatre professionals from 478 applicants after undergoing a highly competitive, nine-month review and consensus-based decision-making process. New Dramatists kicks off their seven-year residencies with an evening of readings and celebration at the annual New Playwright Welcome in the fall.

J. Julian Christopher
J. Julian Christopher

J. Julian Christopher holds an MFA in Acting from The New School for Drama. Acting credits include: TBA (by Carla Ching), Holiday Movies (directed by Liz Swados), and The Karaoke Show (directed by Diane Paulus). Awards include: The 2009 Public Theater Emerging Writers Group, the 2014 Best New Work Motif Award, the 2015 Queens Arts Council Grant, and the 2017 & 2018 Pipeline Theatre Company PlayLab. He has workshopped his plays at LAByrinth Theater, TerraNova Collective, Fuse Theatre, and The Working Theatre. Productions include: Man Boobs (Pride Films & Plays, 2011), Nico was a Fashion Model (Counter-Productions Theatre Company, 2013), Animals Commit Suicide (First Floor Theater, 2015), and Locusts Have No King (INTAR, 2016). Julian has been a finalist for Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Rising Circle, and SPACE at Ryder Farm’s Working Farm Residency. Other plays include, Alligator Mouth, anOTHER, ¡OSO FABULOSO! & The Bear Backs, Bundle of Sticks,and Bruise & Thorn (2018 PlayPenn Conference). He is a co-producer and co-writer of the hit web series, Bulk- The Series, the chair of Region 1’s National Playwriting Program for The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Queensborough Community College.

Sarah Gancher
Sarah Gancher

Sarah Gancher loves big ideas, epic stories, and deep comedy. This season, she premiered I’ll Get You Back Again (Round House, dir. Rachel Chavkin) and Seder (Hartford Stage, dir. Elizabeth Williamson), as well as two musicals written with composers The Bengsons: Hundred Days (Under the Radar Festival at the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, dir. Anne Kauffman) and The Lucky Ones (Ars Nova, dir. Anne Kauffman), which garnered a number of Lortel, Drama League, and Drama Desk nominations. Other plays include The Place We Built (The Flea, dir. Danya Taymor) and Klauzál Square (Quarter6Quarter7 Festival, Budapest, dir. Eszter Kalman.) Co-writer of The TEAM’s Mission Drift, music by Heather Christian, directed by Rachel Chavkin (Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize, Scotsman Fringe First, Herald Angel; Drama League Nomination; intl’ tour ending in a sold-out run at London’s National Theatre.) Her work has been developed by Steppenwolf, Seattle Rep, Mosaic DC, and Premiere Stages, among others. Honors include the New York Stage and Film Founders’ Award, The Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, and the AR Gurney Prize. Alumna: Women’s Project Lab, Playwrights’ Realm Writing Fellowship, P73’s writers’ group, and Ars Nova Play Group. She loves working with devisers and musicians. MFA: NYU.

Mike Lew
Mike Lew

Mike Lew is thrilled to rejoin New Dramatists as a resident playwright, having previously served as their admin associate. Mike is married to fellow playwright Rehana Lew Mirza and together they hold a Mellon National Playwrights Residency at Ma-Yi Theater, a La Jolla Playhouse Artists-in-Residence, and have a kid. Mike’s plays include Teenage Dick (Ma-Yi at the Public, Artists Rep, and Perseverance productions; Public Studio, O’Neill, OSF workshops), Tiger Style!(Olney, Huntington, La Jolla Playhouse, and Alliance productions; O’Neill and CTG workshops), Bike America (Ma-Yi and Alliance productions), microcrisis (Ma-Yi and InterAct productions), Moustache Guys, and the book to the musical Bhangin’ It (Jerome Robbins Project Springboard and Rhinebeck Writers Retreat workshops). Mike is a Tony voter and Dramatists Guild Council member and his honors include Lark Venturous and NYFA fellowships as well as the PEN Emerging Playwright, Lanford Wilson, Helen Merrill, Heideman, and Kendeda awards. He has overdue commissions from La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, and Audible. Education: Juilliard, Yale. Website: www.mikelew.com.

Vickie Ramirez
Vickie Ramirez

Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora) is honored to be a member of New Dramatists class of 2025! Vickie is a founding member of Chukalokoli, Amerinda Theater and a member of the Emerging Writer’s Group (2009). Productions –Glenburn 12 WP for Summer Shorts at 59E59, Smoke for Mixed Phoenix Theatre Group at Pershing Square Signature Center, Liimikin at New Native Theater and Standoff at Hwy#37 for Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles and South Dakota. Her work has been published in Monologues for Actors of Color: Women and Monologues for Actors of Color: Men (Routledge). Standoff at Hwy#37 is featured in the all new Contemporary Plays by Women of Color (Routledge). Member: Dramatists Guild.

Tammy Ryan
Tammy Ryan

Tammy Ryan is a playwright and librettist whose work has been performed across the United States and internationally. She was awarded the Francesca Primus Prize by the American Theater Critics Association for her play, Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods (Premiere Stages/Playwrights Theater of New Jersey) in 2012. Other plays include Molly’s Hammer (Repertory Theater of St. Louis), Tar Beach (Luna Stage, Kilroy’s List), Soldier’s Heart, Baby’s Blues, and FBI Girl: How I Learned to Crack My Father’s Code (Pittsburgh Playhouse), Pig (29th Street Rep) S/he: Lindsay’s Oyster (Kitchen Theater, Garag Istanbul) and The Music Lesson (Florida Stage/Carbonell Award/American Alliance of Theater in Education Distinguished New Play Award.) A New Kind of Fallout, written with composer Gilda Lyons, premiered at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh in 2015. Her work has been developed and supported by the Ignite Festival, New Harmony Project, National New Play Network, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sewanee Writers Conference, The Heinz Endowment, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Tammy is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and her work is published by Dramatists Play Service, Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing Company, and Playscripts. For more information: www.tammyryan.net.

Susan Soon He Stanton
Susan Soon He Stanton

Susan’s plays include we, the invisibles (Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival) Today Is My Birthday (Page 73), Takarazuka!!!(Clubbed Thumb and East West Players), Cygnus (WP Theater Pipeline), Solstice Party! (Live Source), The Things Are Against Us (Washington Ensemble Theatre), and Navigator (Honolulu Theatre for Youth). She is a two-time Sundance Theatre Lab Resident Playwright, and she was awarded the inaugural Venturous Playwright Fellowship and Van Lier Fellowship at The Lark, the Leah Ryan FEWW Prize, a Po’okela Award for best new play. She was a Susan Glaspell Finalist, a runner-up for Southern Rep’s Ruby Prize, and received a Susan Smith Blackburn nomination, and a NET Partnership Grant with Satori Group. Her work has been included on The Kilroys List from 2015-2017, and has received commissions from Yale Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater/Crowded Fire, South Coast Repertory and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Writing groups past and present include Playwrights Center Core Writers’ Residency, Page 73’s Interstate 73, The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab, and Hedgebrook, among others. She has received a Sloan Foundation Feature Film Development Grant and screenwriting award. She writes for Succession (HBO). M.F.A.: Yale School of Drama. B.F.A. from NYU Tisch.

Lauren Yee
Lauren Yee

This season, Lauren Yee premiered Cambodian Rock Band (music by Dengue Fever) at South Coast Rep and The Great Leap at Denver Center, Seattle Rep, and Atlantic Theatre. Upcoming: Cambodian Rock Band at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Victory Gardens; The Great Leap at the Guthrie, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre; King of the Yees at Baltimore Center Stage, SF Playhouse; and The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian, Mu Performing Arts), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, Moxie, PlayPenn), Hookman (Encore, Company One), In a Word (SF Playhouse, Cleveland Public, Strawdog), and Samsara (Victory Gardens, Chance). Her work is published by Samuel French. Recent honors: Kesselring Prize, Francesca Primus Prize, an upcoming Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List (Cambodian Rock Band and The Great Leap). Finalist for the ATCA/Steinberg Award and Edward M. Kennedy Prize. Member of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab and alumni playwright of Playwrights Realm. Current commissions: Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Portland Center Stage, and Trinity Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD. www.laurenyee.com.


New Dramatists is dedicated to the playwright, and pursues a singular mission: To give playwrights time and space in the company of gifted peers to create work, realize their artistic potential, and make lasting contributions to the theatre. Founded in 1949 by Michaela O’Harra in association with Howard Lindsay, Richard Rodgers, Russel Crouse, Oscar Hammerstein II, John Golden, Moss Hart, Maxwell Anderson, John Wharton, Robert E. Sherwood, and Elmer Rice, New Dramatists is one of the country’s leading playwright centers and a nationally recognized new play laboratory, unrivaled in the depth and duration of our commitment to writers. In the 69 years since our founding, 600 new dramatists have passed through our doors, creating work that has laid the foundation for contemporary American dramatic literature. Our alumni include some of the most influential writers of our time: Robert Anderson, Kia Corthron, Nilo Cruz, Horton Foote, Richard Foreman, Maria Irene Fornes, John Guare, Quiara Hudes, David Lindsay-Abaire, Taylor Mac, Eduardo Machado, Donald Margulies, Joe Masteroff, Terrell Alvin McCraney, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Ruhl, John Patrick Shanley, Paula Vogel, Mac Wellman, August Wilson, Doug Wright, and many more. New Dramatists received a Ross Wetzsteon Award for excellence at the 2005 OBIES and a 2001 Tony Honor for “blessing the theatre with new and exceptional works that have assured both a rich theatrical heritage and future for the American Theatre.”

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