Chay Yew

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Chay Yew
Alma materBoston University
Pepperdine University
AwardsObie Award for Direction

Chay Yew (simplified Chinese: 谢耀; traditional Chinese: 謝耀; pinyin: Xiè Yào) is a playwright and stage director who was born in Singapore. He was artistic director of the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago from 2011 to 2020.[1][2][3]


Yew's breakthrough work came from his early plays Porcelain[4] and A Language of Their Own,[5] which, along with Wonderland,[6] make up what Yew calls the Whitelands Trilogy.[7] Other plays include As if He Hears;[8] Red;[9] A Beautiful Country;[10] Question 27, Question 28;[11] A Distant Shore;[12] Vivien and the Shadows[13]; and Visible Cities.[14] His adaptations include A Winter People[15][16] (based on Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard); and Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba.[17]

In 1989, the government in Singapore banned his first play As If He Hears because the gay character acted "too sympathetic and too straight-looking".[18] Chay Yew's plays appear in numerous anthologies, and two collections of his plays[19] have been published by Grove Press. Yew also edited an anthology of contemporary Asian American plays, "Version 3.0", for Theatre Communications Group Publications.[20]

Yew's plays have been produced by many theaters, including the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater in New York City, Mark Taper Forum, Manhattan Theatre Club, Wilma Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Intiman Theatre, Portland Center Stage, East West Players, Cornerstone Theatre Company, amongst others. Overseas, his work has been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London, UK); Fattore K and Napoli Teatro Festival (Naples, Italy); La Mama (Melbourne, Australia); Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center (Shanghai, China); Four Arts (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); and Wild Rice, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Toy Factory, Checkpoint Theatre, and TheatreWorks (Singapore).[21]

For his plays, He is the recipient of the London Fringe Award for Best Playwright and Best Play, George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award, GLAAD Media Award, APGF Community Visibility Award, Made in America Award, AEA/SAG/AFTRA 2004 Diversity Honor, and Robert Chesley Award;[22] he has also received grants from the Rockefeller MAP, McKnight Foundation and the TCG/Pew National Residency Program.

As a director, Chay Yew has directed productions at the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Signature Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, American Conservatory Theater, Kennedy Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, East West Players, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Goodman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, Empty Space, National Asian American Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, Gala Hispanic Theatre, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and Smithsonian Institution.

He also directed the world premieres of David Henry Hwang's and Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music and Rob Zuidam's Rage D'Amors (Tanglewood).

His productions and plays have included such actors as Sandra Oh,[23] Chita Rivera,[24] Daniel Dae Kim,[25] Raúl Castillo,[26] Joel de la Fuente,[27] Tsai Chin,[28] Amy Hill,[29] Dennis Dun,[30] Tamlyn Tomita,[31] Monica Raymund,[32] BD Wong,[33] Margaret Cho, William Jackson Harper,[34] Garrett Wang,[35] amongst others.

Yew has directed numerous world premiere productions by other writers, including Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band;[36] Marcus Gardley’s Gospel of Lovingkindness[37] at Victory Gardens and black odyssey at Denver Center Theatre; Lucas Hnath’s Hillary and Clinton[38] at Victory Gardens; Naomi Iizuka's Strike-Slip[39] at Actors Theatre of Louisville/Humana Festival and Citizen 13559[40] at the Kennedy Center; Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus el Rey[41] and Mojada[42] at the Public Theater; and Julia Cho's Durango[43] at the Public Theater and Long Wharf Theatre.

In 2006, Yew participated in The Collision Project at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. He wrote a documentary play 17 based on the actual lives of Atlanta’s racially diverse teenagers.[44]

Chay Yew was the Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago from 2011 to 2020.[45][46][18][47] During his tenure, out of 43 productions, 18 plays received world premieres of which one went to Broadway, four were produced off-Broadway at the Public, Soho Rep, and Signature Theatre, while others were presented regionally, and abroad at Donmar Warehouse and Bush Theatre in London.[48] For his leadership, he was awarded the Iris Award for Outstanding Commitment to Connecting Chicago Communities and the Arts,[49] and the Impact Award for Bold and Inclusive Artistic Leadership.[50]

For direction, Chay Yew is the recipient of the DramaLogue Award, 2020 Craig Noel Award;[51] and OBIE Award for Direction.[52] In 2022, Yew was featured in the book 50 Key Figures in Queer US Theatre, with a profile written by theatre scholar Dan Bacalzo.[53]

Yew was also the Founder and Director of the Mark Taper Forum's Asian Theatre Workshop for ten years.[54][55] An alumnus of New Dramatists, he has served on the Executive Board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Theatre Communications Group, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Cultural Advisory Council, the League of Chicago Theatres, and the Executive Board of the Consortium of Asian American Theatre and Artists.

Selected plays[edit]

  • As if He Hears (1988)
  • Porcelain (1992)
  • A Language of Their Own (1995)
  • Half Lives (1996)
  • Red (1998)
  • A Beautiful Country (1998)
  • Wonderland (1999), a revision of Half Lives
  • Scissors (2000), short play, part of The Square, a series of shorts conceived by Yew for the Mark Taper Forum
  • The House of Bernarda Alba (2000, adaptation of Federico García Lorca)
  • Here and Now (2002), short play segment of Snapshot[56]
  • A Winter People (2002, adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard)
  • A Distant Shore (2005)
  • The Long Season (2005)
  • Question 27, Question 28 (2006)
  • Visible Cities (2011)


  1. ^ Clement, Olivia (December 6, 2019). "Chay Yew to Depart Victory Gardens". Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  2. ^ Pierce, Jerald Raymond (2020-05-27). "Chay Yew: Break the Table and Build a New One". American Theater. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  3. ^ "Victory Gardens Media Room". Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  4. ^ "Porcelain Reviews - Theatre In Chicago - Play Reviews". Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  5. ^ "More Than Words: A Review of A Language of Their Own". Critics Republic. 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  6. ^ "Calculated Cacophonies: The Queer Asian American Family and the Nonmusical Musical in Chay Yew's Wonderland". 17 December 2016. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  7. ^ Breslauer, Jan (1999-09-19). "Hitting Close to Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  8. ^ "Grappling with sexual politics and love". The Straits Times. 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  9. ^ Swarns, Rachel L. (1999-03-21). "An Outsider Determined Not to Be Someone He's Not (Published 1999)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  10. ^ Molina, Nina. "'A Beautiful Country' blooms virtually". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  11. ^ "Repeating the history". Los Angeles Times. 2004-02-20. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  12. ^ "A Distant Shore Will Bring You in Close". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  13. ^ "Vivien and The Shadows". Charlotte Engelkes. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  14. ^ "Mad World". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  15. ^ "European Cultural Review". Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  16. ^ "QLRS - Extra Media : Cherry Blossoms In China | Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002". Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  17. ^ Oxman, Steven (2002-07-25). "The House of Bernarda Alba". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  18. ^ a b Healy, Patrick (2012-11-21). "'Opening Doors' Means Rattling Some Cages (Published 2012)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  19. ^ Porcelain and A Language of Their Own | Grove Atlantic.
  20. ^ Chai, Barbara (2011-08-02). "'Version 3.0′ Gives Platform to Asian American Playwrights". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  21. ^ "About Me | Chay Yew | resume and bio". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  22. ^ "The Robert Chesley Award for Lesbian and Gay Playwriting". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  23. ^ Jones, Chris. "'Maiden' is the reason Sandra Oh left 'Grey's Anatomy'". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  24. ^ Oxman, Steven (2002-07-25). "The House of Bernarda Alba". Variety. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  25. ^ Martinez, Julio (2000-02-02). "Golden Child". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  26. ^ Gans, Andrew (13 Jun 2014). "Raúl Castillo, John Judd and Sandra Oh Star in Death and the Maiden Starting June 13". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  27. ^ ""wonderland" At The La Jolla Playhouse | Pat Launer". Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  28. ^ "La Jolla's Sept. 22 Wonderland Opening Postponed Due to Actor Injury". Playbill. 22 September 1999. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  29. ^ Martinez, Julio (2000-02-02). "Golden Child". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  30. ^ "A Winter People | Boston Court Pasadena". Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  31. ^ "A Distant Shore, a CurtainUp Los Angeles review". Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  32. ^ ""Boleros For The Disenchanted" At The Huntington". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  33. ^ Canby, Vincent (1995-04-21). "In Love, On to AIDS, Out of Love". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  34. ^ Fullerton, Krissie (29 Mar 2010). "Photo Call: A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick Opens at Playwrights Horizons". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  35. ^ "Chay Yew Mines Dark Side of Asian Life in 'Porcelain'". Los Angeles Times. 1993-01-10. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  36. ^ "'Cambodian Rock Band': Theater Review | Hollywood Reporter". 24 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  37. ^ "SDC Journal Spring 2016". Issuu. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  38. ^ Reid, Kerry (2016-08-23). "The Alternate Universe of Lucas Hnath's 'Hillary and Clinton'". American TheatreE. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  39. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2007-04-04). "Annual Festival of New Plays Gives America a Temperature Reading (Published 2007)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  40. ^ Wren, Celia (2006-03-15). "In 'Citizen 13559,' Innocents Abroad at Home". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  41. ^ Soloski, Alexis (2017-10-25). "Review: A Timely Take on 'Oedipus' by Way of South Central Los Angeles (Published 2017)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  42. ^ "Medea Crosses the Border and Settles in Queens in Mojada | TheaterMania". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  43. ^ "Durango, a CurtainUp world premiere play review". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  44. ^ "Palefsky Collision Project | Alliance Theatre". Archived from the original on 2019-03-27. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  45. ^ "Artistic director Chay Yew: 'Audiences come here wanting a dialogue about America'". The Stage. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  46. ^ "Meaningful Dialogue". HowlRound Theatre Commons. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  47. ^ Reid, Kerry. "How Chay Yew Made Victory Gardens Feel New Again". Chicago magazine. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  48. ^ "Victory Gardens Theater | Chay Yew | artistic director | Chicago". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  49. ^ "Night of Flight 2016 | Halcyon Theatre". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  50. ^ "Sideshow Theatre to Honor Arts & Business Council of Chicago and Chay Yew with 2017 Impact Awards". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  51. ^ "2019 Awards". The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  52. ^ "2006–2007 Obie Award Winners". 2007-05-15. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  53. ^ Bacalzo, Dan (2022). "Chay Yew". In Noriega and Schildcrout (ed.). 50 Key Figures in Queer US Theatre. Routledge. pp. 246–249. ISBN 978-1032067964.
  54. ^ "Asians Get a Proponent at the Taper". Los Angeles Times. 1995-12-17. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  55. ^ Jefferson, Margo (2005-08-07). "Will Theater in Los Angeles Fade to White? (Published 2005)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  56. ^ "Snapshot by Tanya Barfield - Playscripts Inc". Archived from the original on 2018-02-09. Retrieved 2018-02-08.

Other References[edit]