On Young Jean Lee in Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die by Christine Mok

by Christine Mok
The Journal of American Drama and Theatre
Volume 34, Number 2 (Spring 2022)
ISNN 2376-4236
©2022 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center

“It was built to be super universal.”

—Young Jean Lee[1]

In counting Young Jean Lee’s contributions to Asian American theatre, We’re Gonna Die is, on the surface, an oblique entry. We’re Gonna Die is Lee’s 2011 cabaret slash indie-pop concert, the antepenultimate production by 13P, which was formed in 2003 by 13 midcareer playwrights to produce each other’s work.[2] With creative and production control in the hands of playwrights, the first production of We’re Gonna Die is a series of songs and interstitial monologues that Lee performed herself, backed by a band, Future Wife. Lee chronicles a meditation on grief, mourning, and loss, as an indie pop paean and elegy to liberal humanism.

We are all going to die. Lee sings this refrain, placing her body, marked by race and gender, front and center. While theatre critics and audiences focused on Lee’s own body as the Singer bearing confessional weight in monologues and songs, the 2013 studio album version gave the monologues to a who’s who of white indie rockers to embody, or rather give voice to, the narratives of the play, putting further weight on the body, present and absent, in question/confession. Almost a decade later, the New York revival cast Janelle McDermoth, an African American performer, as the Singer. With each iteration – the first run, album, revival – We’re Gonna Die shifts bodies, playing with surfaces as it moves away from Lee’s Asian American one.

By focusing on Lee’s body and her subsequent erasures, I follow Kandice Chuh’s invitation for an Asian Americanist critique such that “taking Asiatic racialization seriously opens and sometimes compels avenues of inquiry and raises questions and creates archives that would otherwise be unavailable.”[3] While performance pieces are oft written to outlive their creators’ embodiment, I propose that Lee’s eventual disappearance informs how we are asked to encounter Lee’s racial surface in her performance. This short essay returns to Lee’s performance in We’re Gonna Die, while holding onto the other productions, in a series of provocations to offer up a deep cut of Asian American dramaturgy that explores the stakes of universal feeling to the aesthetic politics of whiteness.

If cut is slang for a track or song, indexing the historical materiality of recording when sound was cut as a groove into vinyl, a “deep cut” refers to the songs deemed uncommercial (not a “single”) and placed “deep” within the album. As a deep cut, We’re Gonna Die is not a play “about” Asian Americans, nor do the stories or songs mine Asian American subjectivities or identifications, yet Lee’s performing body and its subsequent evacuations serve as an obstinate wedge and unwieldy accomplice to the universal feeling and liberal politics of recognition that the piece constructs. Akin to Asian American refusals theorized by Summer Kim Lee, Vivian Huang, and Xine Yao[4] as, in turn, asociality, inscrutability, and unfeeling, the Asian American dramaturgies in Lee’s performing body defy elision, disorienting how we see Asian American and how we know and feel whiteness. If Lee, following Hilton Als, “makes her body the central text of the piece,”[5] I linger on how we as spectators are asked to read Lee’s Asian body as a central text to refashion what Ralph Rodriguez, following Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, names a “surface reading of race” to “attend to what we have before us” [6] on stage.

Sincerity Forever

What we have before us is Young Jean Lee, playwright as performer. Lee sought to “create a show about ordinary human failings that an ordinary person could perform, experimenting with and subverting a genre that traditionally depends most heavily on star-power and charisma: the one-person cabaret show.”[7] While compelling as herself, Lee is not a virtuosic or trained performer. As an ordinary performer, Lee deploys the affect and effort sublimated in post-Method acting, such that refusal or resistance to emote idealized forms of expressiveness becomes hallmarks of truth and depth of feeling.[8] Lee’s acting instead foregrounds surface. In interviews, Lee remarks that to go beyond surface was beyond her: “I was just totally incapable…even the most basic things. He [director Paul Lazar] really couldn’t tell me to do anything. Also, my default performance mode when I started out was just to stand stock-still like a statue without any facial expression or vocal expression whatsoever.”[9] That the racialized scripts of inscrutability do not overwrite her inexpressiveness hint that something else is at play. Surfaces, as Uri McMillan writes, “register and sense our presence as well.”[10]

Alternating between songs and stories, We’re Gonna Die traces the vicissitudes of growing up and growing old. Singer’s stories are populated by biological family (mother, father, grandmother, uncle), childhood frenemies, an ex-boyfriend, and a friend with her own domestic tragedy. They detail experiences of isolation, illness, frustration, and infidelity. The songs are rejoinders to the stories, with advice, mantras, and a letter offered to the Singer as lyrics set to upbeat tempos. These offerings, both by the Singer’s community to the Singer, and now by the Singer to the audience, range from marginally comforting to bleak: “You are not the only one!”[11] “Horrible things happen every day,”[12] and “When you get old/You will Lose your mind!”[13]

Yet, reviews index a different affective range closer to the musical key: “sly, weird and thoroughly winning” (Charles Isherwood for the New York Times); “uplifting” (Adam Green for Vogue).[14] Perhaps the piece’s winsomeness and uplift reside in theatre’s capacity for what Bruce Wilshire named, “standing in,” whereby the actor stands in for the character, “but the character is a type of humanity with whom the audience member can identify, either directly as a stand-in for his [sic] person, or indirectly as a stand-in for others whom the audience member recognizes and with whom he [sic] can be empathetically involved.”[15] The actor is the lynchpin who stands in for the character and through this standing-in, gives access to spectators who themselves stand in for that charactera riff on Richard Schechner’s “not-me and not-not-me”[16] by way of Sally Fields: (she is) like me/really, really like me. We’re Gonna Die foregrounds this by highlighting a “type of humanity” that rests in empathetic identification, suturing the phenomenological with the confessional conventions of cabaret, the one-person show, or the singer-songwriter. Yet, Lee is explicit in her acting style, interviews, and author’s note that the work is not confessional: “All of the stories in this show are true, but not all of them happened to me…the character of ‘Singer’ is not meant to be me.”[17] Given the deracinated “universal” substance of the stories and lyrics, it is her racial surface[18] that Lee offers to the audience for identification. How then is Young Jean Lee’s Asian body, her racial surface, a type of humanity with whom audience members can identify?

Lee’s Asian body poses a problem for standing-in’s seemingly “neutral” processes of empathy and attachment. Asian Americans as performing bodies operate in contradiction. Their performances have been marked as national abjection by Karen Shimakawa[19] and exception by Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson.[20] Their labor is highly visible, theatrical, and spectacular. At the same time, their bodies and national identity are invisible; their racialization subtended to everyday enactments, Ju Yon Kim’s racial mundane.[21] Americans of Asian descent have historically been racialized as both indeterminate and undesirable subjects to the nation-state, seen and unseen, marked and unmarked, though that unmarking is framed by the provisionality of the honorary whiteness of the model minority who, Ellen D. Wu reminds us, was constructed to be “inherently apolitical and therefore definitively not black.”[22] Asian American racialization operates through inversion— not political/not Black— as much by what is invisible as by what is visible. The problem posed by the Asian American body is in whether it is marked by racial difference or elided (provisionally) with honorary whiteness. Junaid Rana foregrounds honorary whiteness as a social performance of collusion, “to pass as…honorary white in the case of the myth of the model minority,” because “racial performance is an important aspect of interpreting structures organized in relationship to whiteness.”[23] On stage, the interpreting structures framing how and whether spectators see “honorary whiteness” is linked to casting. To the ways that “nontraditional,” and I borrow Angela Pao’s terminology for color-blind, racially conscious, cross-cultural, and societal, casting,[24] has reshaped spectators’ apprehension of embodiment, whereby spectators toggle between seeing actors’ bodies as “unmarked” and as “incorporat[ing] their knowledge of racial histories and relations into their experience and interpretation.”[25]

Given the mechanisms of intimacy and interiority at play in We’re Gonna Die, how do we feel with and through Lee’s racial surface? When Hilton Als writes that, “by assuming the role of the performer, Lee is taking on the kamikaze-like vulnerability that comes with making your body the central text, thus writing another chapter in her vital and necessary work,”[26] he sees an act of subsumption. While the “texts” of the performance are doubled, the script and lyrics, on the one hand, and Lee’s own body, on the other, both are enfolded into Lee’s own body of work. In Als’ reading, it is the cabaret performer’s “kamikaze-like vulnerability,” the almost suicidal (tinged by etymological Japanese aviators) exposure of interiority that is the challenge he sees Lee taking on. But the “almost, but not quite” vulnerability of We’re Gonna Die resides in the act of “taking on” of the role of performer, as opposed to taking inas in take (us) inwhere both valences, to dupe us into believing and provide the audience cathartic access to the self, are set in contradiction. Self-obliterating vulnerability is a curious counterpoint to the inscrutability that dominates discourse around Asian (American) affect; yet, is it not self-annihilation that is at the heart of Asian American femme racialization, from Madama Butterfly (1904) to Miss Saigon (1989)?

Uneasy Feelings

We’re Gonna Die is deceptively moving, exceeding its ambitions to provide “a very little bit of comfort,”[27] “in the hopes that [the stories and songs] might help you feel less lonely when you’re in pain— which I hope you’re not.”[28] While the relationship between “I” and “you” is structured by convention (the stage conventions of performer and audience), it is how the performance negotiates “I” and “we” that has a particular entanglement with racialization, surface, and depth. Sara Ahmed, writing on affect and the body, highlights surface’s relationship to emotion: “It is through emotions that…surfaces or boundaries are made: the ‘I’ and ‘we’ are shaped by, and even take the shape of, contact with others.”[29] Thus, my interest, and suspicion, in both how and whether her racialized body comes to embody the ordinary through the move between “I’’ and “We.” If We’re Gonna Die is taken as memento mori, it is a symbolic reminder of the inexorability of mortality, that life and death are absolute processes that knit humanity together; however, just as we are not equal in life, we are not equal in death—now, more than ever. The shift from singular to plural from “I’m going to die” to “We’re going to die,” is particularly insidious, because what is staged, or rather what I am afraid of, even as I am moved, is how processes of universality, humanism, and whiteness are one and the same. That what happens to Lee’s body, cheerily dressed in yellow skinny jeans, blue Adidas sneakers, and a sweater with a sailboat on it, is a disciplining of the Asian American body through honorary whiteness, with its attendant apolitical-ness and anti-Black racism.

As opposed to the difficult politics and aesthetics that Karen Shimakawa corrals in her analysis of Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,[30] We’re Gonna Die turns to a politics and aesthetics of “easy” feeling that Lee’s racial surface refracts. My unease at the ease through which Lee’s body can be drafted into the liberal politics of recognition hinders standing-in (even when her body and mine share a fungible Asian-ness), thus recoding ordinariness and defamiliarizing deracination. I am not alone in pausing during the final song to wonder at spectators singing along to “We are going to die.” Such dissonance gestures to the ways that Lee’s Asian American dramaturgies are not reparative; they do not smooth over inclusionary and exclusionary mechanisms by which Lee’s Asian body comes to stand-in for a “type of humanity,” when western bourgeois whiteness, or the category of “Man,” as Sylvia Wynter argued, overrepresents itself as universal humanity.[31] Instead, Lee’s performing body shores up what Patricia Stuelke names the ruse of repair,[32] how the reparative turn, though it began as a response to state violence, is put to the service of neoliberal policies and their ideological constructions. Even as it mobilizes reparative feelings to elicit empathetic identification, Lee’s racial surface belies the “feel-good fix”[33] of the show. This ambivalence about the processes of subsumption and self-annihilation are dramaturgical constants in Lee’s work especially when she stages whiteness.

From Sheila and Terence in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, reprised as White Person 1 and 2 in Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, and given full force in Straight White Men,[34] whiteness pervades Young Jean Lee’s work. Or rather, it keeps invading the plays, as if Lee is hell bent on showing her audiences that whiteness abhors not only a vacuum, but also the spaces filled by minoritarian bodies and voices, occupying that space, making glaringly visible whiteness’s presumed invisibility. If, in Lee’s plays, audiences are asked to scrutinize the seemingly totalizing nature of whiteness, that metatheatrical move is evacuated in the studio album of We’re Gonna Die, as displaced as Lee’s own body. No longer the Singer, Lee is relegated to the singer in the band, performing songs backed by lusher orchestrations, while the monologues are portioned to (white) indie rockers including Beastie Boy’s Adam Horovitz, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson. Rather than stories that exceed the singular body of the solo performer, each monologue is isolated to a single voice in recording. If Lee’s own not-white body asks us to consider processes of deracination as the (racial) engulfment[35] of whiteness, the collapsing of narrative into the isolated voice signals not the taking on of universality, but the taking in of whiteness. We are taken in by whiteness, sonically surrounded like noise-cancelling headphones.

Jump Cut

Lee’s performing body and voice recede altogether from the stage in the revival of We’re Gonna Die.  Directed and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly, the show featured Janelle McDermoth, an African American performer. The Second Stage production opened February 25, 2020, and closed early on March 12 when COVID–19 closed NYC stages. I did not see this production, and for some,[36] this is one of the last productions they saw before theatres shuttered. This production is part of poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong’s article, “A Season to Celebrate Asian-American Theater Is Lost to Pandemic,”[37] which marks the lost 2020 season as an Asian American loss. Hong’s collection Minor Feelings: An Asian American Racial Reckoning struck a chord during the pandemic, offering public vocabulary for the resurgence of anti-Asian violence. Hong’s minor feelings are “racialized emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.”[38] That she comes to minor feelings through Richard Pryorby way of Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings[39]enacts Claire Jean Kim’s racial triangulation that, for me, makes McDermoth’s casting as Singer, with Lee as Playwright, provocative. Does a Black woman’s body and voice center We’re Gonna Die’s Asian American dramaturgies by decentering the (white) universal human subject? Is McDermoth’s skilled and virtuosic performance reparative? Poring over production images I am struck by the transformation of Lee’s original costume design. The sailboat emblazoned on Lee’s chest has become the proverbial heart on McDermoth’s sleeve, a glitter-trimmed sailboat on the arm of her leather jacket.

Perhaps McDermoth as Singer with the majority BIPOC musicians as her fellow performers and the possibilities they pose are what set off theatre critic Jesse Green to cling to his individual “specialness” and project his recalcitrance onto fellow spectators at the end of his review:

In answer to the central question — “What makes you so special?” — the singer at first answers: “I believe, deep down, with all my heart, that I deserve to be immune not only from loneliness and tragedy, but also from aging, sickness and death.” Surely I was not the only audience member nodding vigorously in agreement at that point.[40]

“We” is curiously absent in Green’s rendering of the scene.  In his responsein his insistence on himselfGreen refuses what he calls the “trick” of the piece, to be moved from special and individual to collective shared experiencethat in a few weeks would be inexorable for everyone.  How impossible to remain “immune…from loneliness and tragedy…aging, sickness and death” during a global pandemic that continues today.

In her performance of the final text, Lee complicates and undercuts the process of honorary whiteness of her performance by focusing on personhood in an interrogation of self that Green fails to register. I return to Lee’s performance and dilate the moment to underscore Lee’s focus on personhood not circumscribed by hierarchy or domination or even millennial “specialness”: “…I asked myself, ‘Okay, so, who do you think you are?’ And the answer was, ‘I think I’m special.’ I believe, deep down, with all my heart, that I deserve to be immune not only from loneliness and tragedy, but also aging, sickness, and dying. But I’m not special. I’m a person.”[41] That statement of personhood, of not being special, different, or marked, frames the final song where Lee makes the transitive and synecdochical move from “I’m gonna die” to “We’re gonna die” to the finality of “We are going to die.” Any trace of a radical politics of personhood is then erased in the album, an act of vocal whitewashing as yellowface. What “very little bit of comfort” that We’re Gonna Die, the album, provides the listenerand a listener attuned to Lee’s Asian American dramaturgiesmay reside in the knowledge that white supremacy will in fact die, is in living also dying, even as we might be caught inand still cut byits death grip.

Christine Mok is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Rhode Island. She has published in Theatre SurveyJournal of American Drama and Theatre, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and ArtModern Drama,and the Journal of Asian American Studies. She is co-editor with Joshua Chambers-Letson of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital (Bloomsbury, 2021).

[1] John DelSignore, “Playwright Young Jean Lee, We’re Gonna Die,Gothamist, 13 April 2011, https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/playwright-young-jean-lee-emwere-gonna-dieem.

[2] “Our Mission,” 13 Playwrights, https://www.13p.org.

[3] Kandice Chuh, “It’s Not About Anything,” Social Text 32, no. 4 (Winter 2014): 125–134.

[4] Summer Kim Lee, “Staying In: Mitski, Ocean Vuong, and Asian American Asociality,” Social Text 37, no. 1 (2019): 27–50; Vivian Huang, “Inscrutably, Actually: Hospitality, Parasitism, and the Silent Work of Yoko Ono and Laurel Nakadate,” Women and Performance 28 no. 3 (2018): 187-203; Xine Yao, Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth Century America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021).

[5] Hilton Als, “Body of Work,” The New Yorker, 11 April 2011, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/04/11/body-of-work-hilton-als.

[6] Ralph Rodriguez. “In Plain Sight: Reading the Racial Surface of Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings” in Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015), 87-106.

[7] DelSignore, “Playwright Young Jean Lee.”

[8] Shonni Enelow marks this style in contradistinction to Method acting’s “iconography of emotional expression, in which everyday repression gives way…to outpourings of powerful feeling.” Shonni Enelow, “The Great Recession,” Film Comment, September/October 2016. See also: Shonni Enelow, Method Acting and Its Discontents: On American Psycho-Drama (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2015).

[9] DelSignore, “Playwright Young Jean Lee.”

[10] Uri McMillan, “Introduction: Skin, Surface, Sensorium,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 28, no. 1 (2018): 1-15.

[11] Song: “Lullaby for the Miserable” in Young Jean Lee, We’re Gonna Die (New York: Theatre Communications Group [TCG], 2015), 21.

[12] Song: “Horrible Things” in Lee, We’re Gonna Die, 39.

[13] Song: “When You Get Old” in Lee, We’re Gonna Die, 29-30.

[14] Charles Isherwood, “Amid Catchy Choruses, Personal Tales of Life’s Brutal Verities,” New York Times, 10 April 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/theater/reviews/were-gonna-die-by-young-jean-lee-at-joes-pub-review.html; Adam Green, “Stage Notes: We’re Gonna Die Spins Tales of Hot Pain in Cool Tones,” Vogue, 14 August 2013, https://www.vogue.com/article/theater-music-stage-notes-were-gonna-die-spins-tales-of-hot-pain-in-cool-tones

[15] Bruce Wilshire, Role Playing and Identity: The Limits of Theatre as a Metaphor (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), 22-23.

[16] Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2002), 92-93.

[17] Young Jean Lee, “Author’s Note,” We’re Gonna Die (New York: TCG, 2015), 7.

[18] For more on racial surface: Anne Anlin Cheng, Second Skin: Josephine Baker & the Modern Surface (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Sean Metzger, Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014); Uri McMillan, “Introduction: Skin, Surface, Sensorium,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 28, no. 1 (2018): 1-15; Colleen Kim Daniher, “Yella Gal: Eartha Kitt’s Racial Modulations,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 28, no. 1 (2018): 16-33.

[19] Karen Shimakawa, National Abjection: The Asian American Body Onstage (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[20] Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America (New York: New York University Press, 2013).

[21] Ju Yon Kim. The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday (New York: New York University Press, 2015).

[22] Ellen D. Wu, The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 256.

[23] Juniad Rana, “Race,” Keywords in Asian American Studies (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 204.

[24] Angela Pao, No Safe Spaces: Re-Casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.

[25] Ibid., 29.

[26] Hilton Als, “Body of Work,” The New Yorker, 11 April 2011, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/04/11/body-of-work-hilton-als.

[27] Lee, We’re Gonna Die, 39.

[28] Ibid., 21.

[29] Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (New York: Routledge, 2004), 10.

[30] Shimakawa turns to Sianne Ngai’s ugly feelings to unpack the “affective ‘difficulties’” that are “directly and intimately related to its ‘difficult’ politics and aesthetics.” Karen Shimakawa, “Young Jean Lee’s Ugly Feelings About Race and Gender: Stuplime animation in Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,” Women & Performance 17, no. 1 (March 2007), 92.

[31] Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation — An Argument,”CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 3 (Fall 2003), 257-337.

[32] Patricia Stuelke, The Ruse of Repair (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021).

[33] Ibid., 30.

[34] Patricia Ybarra’s essay explores, through an analysis of realism, how an early workshop of Straight White Men “stages the performance of the straight white male self under neo-liberal capitalism” (514). Patricia Ybarra, “Young Jean Lee’s Cruel Dramaturgy,” Modern Drama 67, no. 4 (Winter 2014): 513-532.

[35] For more on racial engulfment, see Denise Ferreira DeSilva, Toward a Global Idea of Race (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

[36] I am grateful to Peter Kim, Brian Herrera, and Darren Gobert for recounting their spectatorial experiences. For reviews: Dan Venning, “We’re Gonna Die,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 43, no. 3, (September 2021): 60-62; Benjamin Gillispie, “We’re Gonna Die by Young Jean Lee,” Theatre Journal 73, no. 2 (June 2021): 245-247.

[37] Cathy Park Hong, “A Season to Celebrate Asian-American Theater Is Lost to Pandemic,” New York Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/theater/asian-american-playwrights.html.

[38] Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (New York: One World, 2020), 55.

[39] Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

[40] Thank you, Brian Herrera, for teasing out the contrarian closing of Green’s review. Jesse Green, “Review: In ‘We’re Gonna Die,’ Pop Songs for the Reaper,” The New York Times, 25 February 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/theater/were-gonna-die-review.html.

[41] Lee, We’re Gonna Die, 39.

Guest Editor: Donatella Galella
Advisory Editor: David Savran
Founding Editors: Vera Mowry Roberts and Walter Meserve

Editorial Staff:

Co-Managing Editor: Emily Furlich
Co-Managing Editor: Dahye Lee

Guest Editorial Board:

Arnab Banerji
Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns
Broderick Chow
Chris A. Eng
Esther Kim Lee
Sean Metzger
Christine Mok
Stephen Sohn

Advisory Board:

Michael Y. Bennett
Kevin Byrne
Tracey Elaine Chessum
Bill Demastes
Stuart Hecht
Jorge Huerta
Amy E. Hughes
David Krasner
Esther Kim Lee
Kim Marra
Ariel Nereson
Beth Osborne
Jordan Schildcrout
Robert Vorlicky
Maurya Wickstrom
Stacy Wolf

Table of Contents:

  • “Introduction to Asian American Dramaturgies” by Donatella Galella
  • “Behind the Scenes of Asian American Theatre and Performance,” by Donatella Galella, Dorinne Kondo, Esther Kim Lee, Josephine Lee, Sean Metzger, and Karen Shimakawa
  • “On Young Jean Lee in Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die” by Christine Mok
  • “Representation from Cambodia to America: Musical Dramaturgies in Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band” by Jennifer Lynn Goodlander
  • “The Dramaturgical Sensibility of Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap and Cambodian Rock Band” by Kristin Leahey, with excerpts from an interview with Joseph Ngo
  • “Holding up a Lens to the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists: A Photo Essay” by Roger Tang
  • “Theatre in Hawaiʻi: An ‘Illumination of the Fault Lines’ of Asian American Theatre” by Jenna Gerdsen
  • “Randul Duk Kim: A Sojourn in the Embodiment of Words” by Baron Kelly
  • “Reappropriation, Reparative Creativity, and Feeling Yellow in Generic Ensemble Company’s The Mikado: Reclaimed” by kt shorb
  • “Dance Planets” by Al Evangelista
  • “Dramaturgy of Deprivation (없다): An Invitation to Re-Imagine Ways We Depict Asian American and Adopted Narratives of Trauma” by Amy Mihyang Ginther
  • Clubhouse: Stories of Empowered Uncanny Anomalies” by Bindi Kang
  • “Off-Yellow Time vs. Off-White Space: Activist Asian American Dramaturgy in Higher Education” by Daphne P. Lei
  • “Asian American Dramaturgies in the Classroom: A Reflection” by Ariel Nereson


Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:

Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Yu Chien Lu, Administrative Producer

©2022 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The Graduate Center CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York NY 10016

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message