Young Jean Lee

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2012

Brooklyn, NY

Young Jean Lee is a playwright and director who has created ten shows with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company including, Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven; Pullman, WA; The Shipment; Lear; We're Gonna Die, Untitled Feminist Show; and Straight White Men. Her plays have been published by Theatre Communications Group and by Samuel French and she has toured her work to more than thirty cities around the world. Her first short film, Here Come the Girls, was presented at The Locarno International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and BAMcinemaFest. She is the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant (2006), four MAP Fund grants, two OBIE awards, a Creative Capital Award (2009), the Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2010), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011), and is a former member of New Dramatists and 13P. She is currently a resident artist with The Wooster Group and recently completed her second short film, A Meaning Full Life.

  • Photo Credit: Blaine Davis
  • Photo Credit: Blaine Davis
    Untitled Feminist Show (2012)
  • Young Jean Lee- We’re Gonna Die (2011):
    We’re Gonna Die (2011)
  • Young Jean Lee- Lear (2010):
    Lear (2010)
  • Young Jean Lee- The Shipment (2008):
    The Shipment (2008)
  • Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes
    Straight White Men

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

When starting a play, I ask myself, "What's the last show in the world I would ever want to make?" Then I force myself to make it. I do this because going out of my comfort zone compels me to challenge my assumptions and find value in unexpected places. I write my shows as I’m directing them, working collaboratively with my performers and artistic team and getting feedback from workshop audiences. Our goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing. My work is about struggling to achieve something in the face of failure and incompetence and not-knowing. The discomfort and discovery involved in watching this struggle reflects the truth of my experience.