Magazine article American Theatre

White Noise

Magazine article American Theatre

White Noise

Article excerpt

COLUMBUS, OHIO: In my college days I voraciously consumed Race Traitor, a journal whose motto was "Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity." I was looking for how to be a decent human being in the world, given my compromising raw data: white, male and heterosexual. I wanted to toss my privilege (though admittedly not myself) into the fire, if I could only find the right prescription for how.

I confess I still haven't struck the balance. Neither has the world. Enter Young Jean Lee and her theatre company.

Lee brings her sharp eye and loyal ear to this dilemma in her newest play, Straight White Men, which has its world premiere April 10-13 at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus. Lee, who never shies away from the difficult or the uncomfortable, is once again swimming headfirst into the dangerous undertow of what she calls "the worst possible play." It's her oft-pronounced propensity, since her early work, to face down and follow through on seemingly bad ideas.

"I've never been someone who wanted to make 'identity politics' art," Lee explains. "And early in my career I resented people who expected me to make it." Indeed, Straight White Men is hardly her only play to confront those expectations. Her first big production, The Appeal, also involved a handful of straight white men--in this case the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron--sitting around a parlor, a living-room-drama conceit that Lee let fear push her into and upended. Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven counterintuitively engaged with her Korean-American-ness, managing to Other-ize everyone, Asian and white characters alike, as well as the audience. …

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