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Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University presents "King of the Yees" by Lauren Yee

originally published: 03/23/2023

Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University presents "King of the Yees" by Lauren Yee

Princeton students in rehearsal for the upcoming Lewis Center production of Lauren Yee’s play King of the Yees. Photo Credit: Jon Sweeney.

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater will present King of the Yees by Lauren Yee on April 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 at 8:00pm at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center at 91 University Place on the Princeton campus. The production is directed by guest artist Bi Jean Ngo and features lighting design by Princeton senior Angelica Qin. In Yee's semi-autobiographical play, her father, Larry, has been a driving force for nearly 20 years in the Yee Family Association, a seemingly obsolescent Chinese American men's club formed a hundred fifty years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.

But when her father goes missing, Lauren must plunge into the rabbit hole of San Francisco 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 means to truly be a Yee.

Yee, a 2018-19 Hodder Fellow at Princeton, is a playwright, screenwriter, and television writer. King of the Yees premiered in 2019 at The Goodman Theatre and Center Theatre Group, followed by productions at ACT Theatre, Canada’s National Arts Centre, and Baltimore Center Stage. Her play Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever and others, premiered at South Coast Rep with subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, Victory Gardens, City Theatre, Merrimack Rep, and Signature Theatre. Her play The Great Leap has been produced at Denver Center, Seattle Rep, Atlantic Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre, Steppenwolf, Pasadena Playhouse/East West Players, and Cygnet Theatre. She is the winner of the Doris Duke Artist Award, the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Horton Foote Prize, the Kesselring Prize, the ATCA/Steinberg Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, and the Francesca Primus Prize. Yee is a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists member (class of 2025), Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. Her current commissions include Arena Stage, Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, and South Coast Rep. She has been a writer on Pachinko (Apple TV+), Soundtrack (Netflix), and a soon-to-be announced FX limited series. She is executive producing the adaptation of Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties for television. It was recently announced Yee will write the book for the Broadway-aimed musical adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s iconic A Wrinkle in Time.

Bi Jean Ngo, director of the production, is an actress, director, and member of Actor’s Equity Association. She is based in Philadelphia and has appeared at 1812 Productions, InterAct Theatre, Theatre Exile, Arden Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, Theatre Horizon, Delaware Shakespeare, and more. She holds an M.F.A. from The Actors' Studio Drama School and a Bachelor's of Science in Film and Television from Boston University. She received additional training in physical theater, the classics, and originating ensemble and solo work at Dell'Arte International, The Suzuki Company of Toga, Shakespeare and Company, and The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski. She is a recipient of the Fox Foundation Fellowship Award administered through TCG, and she has received the F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Barrymore Award. Ngo is teaching the spring course, “Theater Rehearsal and Performance,” through which students involved in the production receive academic credit for their semester-long involvement in the production.

Princeton senior Angelica Qin is lighting designer for the production, her independent work for a certificate in the Program in Theater. She proposed King of the Yees for the theater season desiring to present an Asian American comedy that responds to Asian identifying students seeking to explore or become more active in theater. She felt other plays about the Asian American experience previously presented at Princeton were mostly dramas written to educate white audiences about racism, and students found it to be emotionally exhausting to be part of those productions. Her intent with this play is to present it for the Asian American community in the region and to celebrate Asian joy. In addition to designing the lighting, Qin is also focusing on outreach to the regional Chinese community.

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Qin, who is from West Windsor, New Jersey, is majoring in sociology while pursuing certificates in theater and Asian American studies. At Princeton, she has been the lighting designer for numerous on-campus productions, including The Chinese Lady and Affecting Expression with the Program in Theater, Stolen and Isola with Princeton Sound Kitchen, Shrek The Musical with Princeton University Players and Theatre Intime, and various student dance performances. She also has extensive experience as a stage manager, working on productions such as Sister Mok-rahn, Tea, and Memphis. In addition, she served as the inaugural equity, diversity, and inclusion officer of Theatre Intime for two years, and she currently serves as the  producer of All-Nighter: Princeton’s First and Only Late Night Comedy Show. This summer, she will serve as the executive director of Princeton Summer Theater before starting a career in public service.

Other students in the King of the Yees cast include Eliyana Abraham, Parker Blumenberg, Sandra Chen, Brandon Le, Zach Lopez, Tinney Mak, Rosemary Paulson, and Moses Yang.

Professional guest artists on the production team include Aoshuang Zhang as set designer and Ariel Wang as costume designer. Members of the student production team, in addition to Qin, are Nicabec Casido as sound designer, Sahaf Chowdhury as assistant set designer, Megan Pan as assistant costume designer, Aliha Mughal as stage manager, and Vera Fei and Danica Truong as assistant stage managers. Faculty advisors include Lecturer in Theater and Producing Artistic Director of the Theater Season Elena Aroaz, and Lecturers in Theater Tess James and Rob Kaplowitz.

Tickets for King of the Yees are $12 in advance of show dates, $17 purchased the day of performances at the box office, and $10 for students. Purchase tickets online through McCarter Box Office.

An audience talkback to follow one of the performances is being planned. The Berlind Theatre is an accessible venue with wheelchair and companion seating available and an assistive listening system with headphones available from ushers. The April 14 performance will be open captioned. Guests in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.

King of the Yees is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. 

All visitors to Princeton University are expected to be either fully vaccinated, have recently received and be prepared to show proof of a negative COVID test (via PCR within 72 hours or via rapid antigen within 8 hours of the scheduled visit), or agree to wear a face covering when indoors and around others.

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Visit the Lewis Center website to learn more about the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, lectures, and special events, most of them free, presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts. 




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