King of the Yees

By Lauren Yee    

Directed by Holly L. Derr

This production is underwritten by Peggy Moore and Betsy Bradshaw. Direction is underwritten by Carol Putnam and Lance Haddon. The actors are partially underwritten by Oregon Community Foundation.


For nearly 20 years, playwright Lauren Yee’s father Larry 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 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.

Playwright Perspective

My plays grapple with family, identity, and the complicated notion of authenticity in funny, unexpected ways. As a third-generation Chinese-American playwright who has always felt like an inadequate vessel to tell the stories of those who came before her, I’ve continually crossed the line between authentic storyteller and utter impostor.

Since moving away from my hometown of San Francisco, I have begun to wonder more about the future of San Francisco, specifically its declining Chinatown. What happens when cultural institutions outlive their usefulness? My father, Larry Yee, who has dedicated his life to the health of the San Francisco Chinese community, has begun to seem more like a cultural remnant himself. My semi-autobiographical play King of the Yees explores the potential demise of Chinatowns and questions the future of race and culture in the twenty-first century, through the story of a father and a daughter.

Above all, this play is a love letter to San Francisco, the city my family has called home for a hundred years, the lovably idiosyncratic place that is shifting culturally and socio- economically. It is a meditation on the communities we choose and the communities we inherit.


Larry Joseph Anthony Foronda
Lauren Leah Anderson
Actor 1 Alex Lydon
Actor 2 Annie Yim
Actor 3 Moses Villarama
Stage directions Alice Glass


San Francisco’s Chinatown.

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Playwright Image

Lauren Yee is a playwright, screenwriter, and TV writer born and raised in San Francisco. She currently lives in New York City.

Her 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, Signature Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and Jungle 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, with future productions at Long Wharf, Cygnet Theatre, and Asolo Rep/Miami New Drama.

Lauren Yee’s play King of the Yees premiered at The Goodman Theatre and Center Theatre Group, followed by productions at ACT Theatre, Canada’s National Arts Centre, and Baltimore Center Stage. Other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian Rep, Mu Performing Arts), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, Moxie, PlayPenn), Hookman (Encore, Company One), In A Word (Young Vic, SF Playhouse, Cleveland Public, Strawdog), Samsara (Victory Gardens), The Song of Summer (Trinity Rep, Mixed Blood), and The Tiger Among Us (Mu).

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. She has been a finalist for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her plays were the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List.

Lauren is a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists member (class of 2025), Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, former Princeton University Hodder fellow, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. TV: Pachinko (Apple), Soundtrack (Netflix). Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD.

Director Image

Holly L. Derr is a director, writer, and professor of theater, and the Head of Graduate Directing and Artistic Director at the University of Memphis. Her most recent production, Red Bike, by Caridad Svich, ran at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati.

She directs new plays and gender-flipped classics, such as Romeo and Juliet at Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House; Harry and the Thief, by Sigrid Gilmer, at The Know Theatre in Cincinnati; and my own play, American Medea. Favorite past projects include As Long As Fear Can Turn to Wrath at Son of Semele Theater, What We Were, by Blake Hackler, and new plays by Gregory S. Moss, Lauren Yee, and C. Denby Swanson.

Originally from Dallas, TX, she holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, where she studied with Anne Bogart and Robert Woodruff, and a BA in Dramatic Arts from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the founding Artistic Director of SKT, Inc., a New York-based non-profit theater, and has directed new plays for the Know Theatre, Ashland New Plays Festival, and the PlayPenn New Play Development Festival. She has served on the faculties of Marlboro College, Smith College, and Skidmore College, and has taught and directed at the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University, The Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company Consortium, CalArts, the University of California at Riverside, and Chapman University. She was the 2017 Producing Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

She is also a feminist media critic who writes about theater, film, television, and pop culture, using the theoretical and analytical tools of the theater to reflect upon broader issues of gender and race. Follow her @hld6oddblend or on Facebook.

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