Young Jean Lee explores how to be an ally in Straight White Men

Asian-American queer playwright Young Jean Lee discusses her provocative new theatre piece Straight White Men.
Writer, director and filmmaker Young Jean Lee has been called 'the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation' by the New York Times and 'one of the best experimental playwrights in America' by Time Out New York. (Julie Crysler/CBC)

Young Jean Lee never takes the easy way out for her work.

She regularly tackles subjects and formats that she finds difficult or alien. Taking herself out of her own comfort zone, she says, allows her to do the same to her audience.

"Every show has been my worst nightmare on some level."

As a celebrated young, female, Asian-American playwright, then, the subject (and title) of her latest play couldn't be any further from her personal experience: Straight White Men.

It's an identity undergoing more scrutiny and transformation in North America now than ever. "It used to be that straight white maleness wasn't even considered an identity ... They were just the default human," Lee told Shad on Thursday.

"Now, for the first time, straight white men are getting stuck with this label, and obviously nobody likes it ... And so it's really interesting to see them have to contend with this for the first time."

By listening to both women and minorities' outside perspectives, and the starring actors' personal testimonials, Lee says she learned that she had more in common with straight white men than she thought.

Straight White Men is playing in Toronto this week at the World Stage Festival.


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