In the spirit of celebrating last month’s AAPI month, we at TeenTix LA wanted to highlight Sierra Madre Playhouse’s current production of KING OF THE YEES. This spectacular production was directed by Tim Dang and written by Lauren Yee. The play tells the comical yet realistic story of growing up in Chinese American culture. For nearly twenty years, playwright Lauren Yee's father Larry has been a driving force in the Yee Family Association. Lauren has to race through history, space, and the fourth wall to find her father in this adventurous joyride through San Francisco’s disappearing past. KING OF THE YEES celebrates the emotional truths that everyone, including AAPI folks, can relate to. We asked the play’s director, Tim Dang, to further elaborate on this topic.
Why did your organization want to specifically showcase KING OF THE YEES?
Because of the diverse communities in the San Gabriel Valley, Sierra Madre Playhouse's mission is to connect people of our diverse communities to each other through bold, resonant live theater in an intimate setting that inspires, entertains, and celebrates our shared humanity. And in honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this play, King of the Yees by Lauren Yee, is the perfect production at the right time with its Asian Pacific. Although the themes are specifically educating us about Chinese American culture, this story has universal truths for all of us.
What message do you (or your team) want for teens to obtain from seeing this play?
The message of the play is for everyone, especially teens and young adults to always be “curious" about life. In this specific production, the knowledge about what our parents' generation grew up with will have a significant impact on the current generation and their future. By being curious, we ask a lot of questions. How do we stay connected to our past while moving forward in a changing world? How do the different generations navigate cultural, national, and familial borders of appreciation and understanding of each other?
What are some of your favorite moments and/or obstacles your team has faced in bringing this production to the big stage?
As this is an intimate theater, our challenge is to bring the human story up close and personal to our audience members. Unlike a big blockbuster film where you will see big special effects and action sequences, live theater has a smaller budget which gives each audience member the opportunity to use their imagination of what they are seeing. The audience member sees their own unique special effects and action sequences in their mind. But our favorite moments are bringing the celebration of Chinese culture and sharing it with the entire community.
What is the underlying significance of this play and why should people see it?
People are starting to travel again now that we are post-pandemic. Adventure is back in style. All the news headlines are telling us that the world is constantly changing at lightning speed. What playwright Lauren Yee has created is a fantastical journey through San Francisco Chinatown right from your seat. It is a theatrical joyride that is part Alice in Wonderland, part Wizard of Oz, and part lesson of self discovery. Everyone should see this play because it is a hilarious adventure while being a heartbreakingly honest story about the relationship between a daughter and her father.
What does this production mean to you and your team?
This production is all about connections. How can we appreciate the life that our parents went through in order to make our lives so much better and to make a better future for us and for our children. We need to be curious about how our parents grew up so that we can learn from them and apply our own life skills to building a better future.
In addition, I do have one bonus question – with May serving as AAPI month, what type of impact do you want for AAPI individuals to take away from this experience?
One of the best things for AAPI individuals to take away from this experience is to have pride about the culture in which we grew up in. To celebrate the culture, to celebrate the language, and of course, to celebrate our food. In many ways Chinese food is one of the easiest ways to share our stories. Eating is such a big part of our culture, that the conversations we have over a meal can have life long lessons along our journey of life.
Here at TeenTix LA, it’s so important to us that we take the time to acknowledge different cultures and to create a better understanding of the individuals around us. That is why it is significant to experience the stories of the people who have gone through different cultural shifts and experiences. KING OF THE YEES serves as a purposeful message to show how AAPI culture creates universal lessons amongst ourselves. This play is OUT NOW – available until June 12th, so make sure to head over to our events calendar and purchase your $5 tickets using our TeenTix Pass.