Esther K. Chae

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Esther K. Chae
Esther K. Chae.jpg
Born Esther K. Chae
Eugene, Oregon, United States
Residence Santa Monica, CA
Nationality United States
Alma mater Yale University, University of Michigan, Korea University
Occupation Actor
Korean name
Hangul 채경주[1]
Revised Romanization Chae Gyeong-ju
McCune–Reischauer Ch'ae Kyǒngju

Esther Chae (Hangul채경주; RRChae Gyeong-ju) is a Korean-American actress and writer. Chae has appeared in numerous television shows such as NCIS, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The West Wing, The Shield, and ER.[2] She has also performed on theater stages including Yale Repertory Theater, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum/ Kirk Douglas Theater, East West Players, P.S. 122, and Harvard/American Repertory Theater. Chae was among the inaugural class of TED fellows in 2009.[3] She wrote and performed in So The Arrow Flies,[4] an 80-minute one-woman performance about a North Korean spy and the FBI agent that hunts her down. It touches on post-9/11 themes of terrorism, political ideology, national identity and mother-daughter relationships.

Early life and education[edit]

Chae is the daughter of Dr. Hi-kyung Chae and Mrs. Inja Chae. She was born in Eugene, Oregon, and at the age of five moved to Seoul, South Korea.

She graduated from Korea University with a B.A. in French Literature. Upon graduation, she returned to the United States. Chae earned her M.A. in Theater Studies at the University of Michigan and her M.F.A in Acting at the Yale School of Drama.


In 1995, Chae's first professional acting role was playing a lead in Velina Hasu Houston's acclaimed play, Tea, at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has taught and lectured at the Yale School of Drama, University of Southern California, California State University, San Marcos, NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Performance Studies and the New York Film Academy.[5] See credit section below for details.

Notable awards and recognition[edit]

Chae accepting the Emerging Artist Alumni Award at the University of Michigan in 2010.

In 2010, Chae received the 2010 APA Heritage Trailblazer Award by New York governor David Paterson. That year, she also received the 2010 University of Michigan Emerging Artist Alumni Award & King/Chavez/Parks Visiting Professorship and Emerging Artist Award.[6]

In 2009, she was one of the inaugural 2009 TED Fellows. At the conference she performed an excerpt from her solo performance So The Arrow Flies.[7]

In 2008, Chae was invited to the University of Southern California's Network of Korean-American Leaders (NetKAL) Fellowship Program which promotes community leadership among successful second-generation Korean-Americans.[8]

In 2007, Chae was awarded the Korean Wave Asia Star Award which was nationally and internationally televised throughout South Korea, Philippines, China, and Japan.[9]

3 Hearts Productions and So The Arrow Flies[edit]

In 2009, Chae formed 3 Hearts Productions, a production company that enables Chae's artistic work in producing, writing, directing, and acting to reach a larger global audience.

Chae's solo performance So The Arrow Flies is about a Korean- American FBI agent that pursues a North Korean spy. The performance debuted at New York's Estrogenius Festival in 2007. Since then, it has been featured at a TED conference, Ars Nova Theater (New York City), Cherry Lane Theater (New York City), World Women's Forum (Seoul, South Korea), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), October Nights Theater Festival (Imola, Italy), and educational institutions such as New York University and City University of New York's Martin Segal Theater Center.



Year Production Location Role Notes
1999 Measure for Measure Yale Repertory Theater Juliet
2001 Piano Harvard/American Repertory Theater Han
2001 Pojagi: The Korea Project La MaMa (New York)/Millenium Festival (South Korea) Lead Nominated – New York Obie Award Best Production
2005 Distant Shore Kirk Douglas Theater/Mark Taper Mina
2007 Yellowface Mark Taper Forum Various (u/s)
2006–2010 So The Arrow Flies Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), Ars Nova Theater (New York), World Women's Forum (South Korea) Creator and Lead


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Come On Screenwriter and Lead Actor Hampton's International Film Festival
2000 Becoming an Actress in New York City Lead Nominated – Asian American Ammy Award
2002 24 Mina
2003 The Shield Donna
2003 ER Reporter Justine
2003 The West Wing McKenzie
2004 ABC Micro Mini Series Amy AFTRA Best American Scene Award
2005 Esther Chae in Hollywood Herself Documentary nationally televised in South Korea
2005 Cinema AZN Herself Vision Award by The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications
2006 NCIS Yoon Dawson Episode "Light Sleeper"
2006 Night Stalker Dae
2007 Law and Order: Criminal Intent Ms. Kim
2008 The Young and the Restless Dr. Che
2011 Untitled Brenda Hampton Project (pilot) Sarah

Personal life[edit]

Chae is fluent in English and Korean, and knows some French and written Chinese. Chae is certified stage combatant, and is trained in Korean Drum and Mask dance. Recently,[when?] she summited Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, 5,895m) and trekked the Himalayan Mountains (India, 1400m).

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 2010 Asian American Trailblazer Award
  • 2010 University of Michigan Emerging Artist Alumni Award
  • 2009 TED Fellow
  • 2007 Korean Wave Asian Star Award at the Asia Model Festival Awards
  • 2008 NetKAL Fellowship
  • 2006 Vision Award by The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications ("Cinema AZN"/International Channel)
  • 2005 AFTRA Best American Scene Award ("Micro Miniseries"/ABC)
  • 2005 Golden Reel Award, Best Radio Play ("Hiroshima" with Tyne Daly and Ruby Dee)
  • 2001 Ammy Award for Asian Americans, Best Documentary Nominee ("Becoming an Actress in NYC")
  • 2000 Obie Theater Award Nominee ("Pojagi"/Ping Chong and Co.)


  1. ^ "'동양 여성 차별하는 할리우드의 편견 깨겠다'", JoongAng Ilbo, February 6, 2008, retrieved June 15, 2012 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "TED Blog | Fellows Friday with Esther Chae". March 27, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Esther K. Chae: Asian American Actress Media Kit". Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Feature: Exclusive Interview with Actress Esther K. Chae". Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Alumni Society – Michigan Muse – UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance". Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Fellows | The TED Fellows Directory | Esther Chae". TED. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Network of Korean-American Leaders – Esther Chae". April 1, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  9. ^ EstherKChae. "Korea Wave Asia Award with Esther K. Chae". YouTube. Retrieved May 29, 2011.