“King of the Yees”, produced by Lauren Yee and directed by Desdemona Chiang, is on stage at Baltimore Center Stage through Nov. 18.
The semi-autobiographical play explores cultural and familial borders as the main character, Lauren, explores what it means to be a part of the Yee Family. The storyline takes off as Lauren navigates her San Francisco’s Chinatown to find her missing father, Larry.
“The play is really about Lauren Yee and her relationship with her father,” Chiang says. “Larry and Lauren live in Chinatown where Larry is president of a Chinese American’s men’s club that formed 150 years ago. It’s a story about Lauren’s journey and how she learns about her father’s relationship to the history of the community, based on the family organizations.”
But she also uses the play to explore her Chinese American identity, Chiang says.
“The history of a lot of Chinese communities in America was that during the building of the railroad, you had a lot of Chinese men who came over and would form these organizations based on the last name,” she says. “They weren’t allowed to bring their wives and children over and there was an assumption that, oh, we have the same last name, you must be family somehow.”
As the play unfolds, Lauren realizes what a big fixture her dad is in that organization and in that community. Culturally, she doesn’t feel like she fits in that word, but she begins to understand her biological connection to it, Chiang says, adding that she is excited to see the depiction of Asian culture on stage.
“I’m curious to see how the play resonates against the Baltimore community. I’ve only been in Baltimore for a few weeks working on the show, getting to know the Asian community here and getting to know the history of the very small Chinatown existed in Baltimore has been super interesting,” she says. “I’m curious to see how the Asian folks and the city responded to this play and whether or not they feel like this history resonates with them. I also generally feel like anyone who’s tried to understand their parents would love the show.”
Chiang said her love of storytelling hasn’t always been a part of her own history.
“I came into the directing pretty late. I was originally a pre-med major,” she says. “I took one theater class in undergrad, and that was the beginning of it. I fell in love with it and I fell in love with the people doing it. I guess I love theater more, and I love making art more.”
Even as student, the idea of which stories were told and who gets to tell them interested her. Working with both female-centric stories and female playwrights have both been really important to her, she says.
She is excited for audiences to see the actors excelling in this production.
“My favorite part is working with the staff members here. They are super gifted and have great craftsmanship,” she says. “It’s great working with a team of real professionals here. I hope that folks will enjoy the show and I’m excited for Baltimore to see it.”
“King of Yees,” Baltimore Center Stage, through Nov. 18. Tickets start at $20. centerstage.org