Young Jean Lee

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Young Jean Lee
Born Daegu, South Korea
Occupation Playwright, director, filmmaker
Nationality Korean-American
Period Contemporary
Literary movement Experimental, Avant-garde
Young Jean Lee
Hangul 이영진
Revised Romanization Yi Yeongjin
McCune–Reischauer Yi Yǒngjin

Young Jean Lee is a Korean-American playwright, director, and filmmaker. She is the Artistic Director of Young Jean Lee's Theater Company, a not-for-profit theater company dedicated to producing her work. She has written and directed ten shows for Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. Lee was called "the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation" by Charles Isherwood in The New York Times[1] and "one of the best experimental playwrights in America" by David Cote in Time Out New York.[2]


Lee was born in South Korea and moved to the United States when she was two years old. She grew up in Pullman, Washington and attended college at UC Berkeley, where she majored in English. Immediately after college, Lee entered UC Berkeley’s English PhD program, where she studied Shakespeare for six years before moving to New York to become a playwright. She received an MFA from Mac Wellman's playwriting program at Brooklyn College.[3]

She was previously married to Los Angeles-based attorney Nicholas F. Daum.



Lee's plays have been presented in New York City at, The Public Theater (Straight White Men),[4] the Baryshnikov Arts Center (Untitled Feminist Show),[5] LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater (We're Gonna Die), Joe's Pub (We're Gonna Die),[6] Soho Repertory Theater (Lear),[7] The Appeal,[8] The Kitchen (The Shipment)[9] The Public Theater (Church), P.S. 122 (Church),[10] Pullman, Washington,[11] HERE Arts Center (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven),[12] and the Ontological-Hysteric Theater (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals). Her work has toured venues in Paris, Vienna, Hannover, Berlin, Zurich, Brussels, Budapest, Sydney, Melbourne, Bergen, Brighton, Hamburg, Oslo, Trondheim, Rotterdam, Salamanca, Graz, Seoul, Zagreb, Toulouse, Toronto, Calgary, Antwerp, Vienna, Athens, London, Chicago, Chapel Hill, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Boston, New Hampshire, Williamstown, and Minneapolis. Lee is currently under commission from Lincoln Center Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Her first short film, Here Come the Girls, had its world premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival, its U.S. premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and its New York premiere at BAMcinemaFest.


Her band, Future Wife, released their debut album, We’re Gonna Die, in 2013.[13] The band features members of various New York projects, including Cloud Becomes Your Hand, San Fermin, Field Guides, and Landlady.[14] Young Jean Lee and Future Wife performed the show, We're Gonna Die, with David Byrne at his Meltdown Festival in London (Southbank Centre) in August 2015.


Outside her own company, Lee has worked with Radiohole and the National Theater of the United States of America. She is on the board of Yaddo, is a former member of New Dramatists and 13P, and has been awarded residencies from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Hedgebrook, the Park Avenue Armory, Orchard Project, HERE Arts Center, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange.


Theatre Communications Group has published all of Lee's plays in three books: Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays;[15] The Shipment and Lear;[16] and We're Gonna Die. Other publications include: Three Plays by Young Jean Lee[17] (Samuel French, Inc.), New Downtown Now[18] (an anthology edited with Mac Wellman), and An Interview with Richard Foreman in American Theatre magazine.[19]


Lee is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two OBIE Awards, a Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Doris Duke Artist Residency, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant, and the ZKB Patronage Prize of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel.[citation needed] She has also received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Creative Capital, the Greenwall Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Arts Presenters/Ford Foundation Creative Capacity Grant, the Barbara Bell Cumming Foundation, and the New England Foundation for the Arts: National Theater Project Award. She won the 2016 PEN/Laura Pels Award.[20][21]


  1. ^ Isherwood, Charles (January 17, 2012). "Untitled Feminist Show". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ David Cote, “The Shipment,” Time Out New York, January 2009
  3. ^ "Editors, Times Topics - Young Jean Lee". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Isherwood, Charles (November 18, 2014). "My Three Sons and All Their Troubles, 'Straight White Men' Opens at the Public Theater". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Als, Hilton (January 19, 2012). "Young Jean Lee's "Untitled Feminist Show"". The New Yorker. 
  6. ^ Isherwood, Charles (April 10, 2011). "Amid Catchy Choruses, Personal Tales of Life's Brutal Verities". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ David Cote, “ LEAR: Father disfigure,” Time Out New York, January 2010.
  8. ^ David Cote, “The Appeal,” Time Out New York, April 22–29, 2004.
  9. ^ Charles Isherwood, “Off-Center Refractions of African-American Worlds,” The New York Times, January 2009. The New York Times,
  10. ^ Jason Zinoman, “Confronting Questions of Faith With a Few New Responses,” The New York Times, May 2007. The New York Times
  11. ^ David Cote, “Pullman, Washington,” Time Out New York, March 2005
  12. ^ Anita Gates, “Laugh Now. You May Not When These Women Rule the World,” The New York Times, September 2006. The New York Times
  13. ^ McGovern, Kyle. "Hear Ad-Rock's Heartbreaking Monologue From Future Wife's 'We're Gonna Die'". 
  14. ^ "ABOUT FUTURE WIFE". Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  15. ^ Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group, April 2009.
  16. ^ The Shipment and Lear, Theatre Communications Group, April 2010.
  17. ^ Three Plays by Young Jean Lee (Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, The Appeal, Pullman, WA')'Samuel French, Spring 2006.
  18. ^ New Downtown Now, edited by Mac Wellman and Young Jean Lee, University of Minnesota Press, June 2006
  19. ^ Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, American Theatre, September 2008.
  20. ^ Maggie Galehouse (March 1, 2016). "PEN Literary Award winners announced". Chron. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  21. ^ "2016 PEN Literary Award Winners". PEN. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 

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