Playwright Young Jean Lee just made history for Asian American women

The world of mainstream entertainment is (slowly) making strides toward diversity and inclusivity. Lena Waithe recently became the first woman of color to win an Emmy for comedy writing, Hamilton has opened doors for a multitude of mega-talented non-white performers, and now playwright Young Jean Lee is about to become the first Asian American woman to have her work featured on Broadway. Obviously, we’re cheering.

According to the Women’s Media Center, Lee’s Straight White Men opens on June 29th at the Hayes Theater. The play, which will star Armie Hammer, opened off-Broadway in 2014 and centers on a widowed father and his three adult sons home for the holidays. The four characters — all straight, white guys — confront questions of identity by playing a game called “Privilege,” which is based on Monopoly. Lee told Vogue that in her latest play, she wanted to explore the notion of “straight white maleness” no longer being considered a default.

"I noticed that straight white maleness, which used to be the default, seemed to have become a label," she told the magazine in an interview. "And I noticed straight white men adapting to suddenly having to take on this label, the way marginalized people have had labels applied to them forever. And then I realized that I could make an identity-politics show about that — it seemed like a really difficult challenge."

Lee is a seasoned playwright. According to the New Yorker, although she went to graduate school at the University of California for English, she eventually dropped out to pursue a degree in playwriting. Her first show was staged in 2004, and since then, she’s been creating experimental plays that largely focus on identity — specifically, what it means to be a woman, a Korean American, and Black.

Improving the representation of women of color in the arts is crucial, and while we’ve made progress, there’s still so much more work to be done. Nevertheless, we’re ecstatic for Lee’s Broadway debut, and we hope that her success will pave the way for other Asian American women to follow in her footsteps.

And if you happen to be in the New York City area and would like to check out Straight White Men for yourself, you can buy tickets for its 10-week run here.

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