(K. Leander Williams's article appeared in New York magazine, 12/27.)
A young playwright exiles King Lear from his own play.
King Lear without Lear, you say? What would be the point? For playwright Young Jean Lee, it is to experience the Bard’s great tragedy in the most thrilling and freewheeling fashion—which is the only way Lee can approach a subject, as anyone who saw last winter’s acclaimed The Shipment can attest. Yet for someone whose plays have garnered so many accolades, Lee talks a lot about failure. One might say she’s made it part of her process. “Here’s how it goes,” she told me last fall, following the second workshop performance of her Lear, opening shortly at Soho Repertory Theatre. “I start with something that doesn’t work, and then I fail, fail, and fail again, until it comes together. What you just saw? I’m not happy with much of it. And it’s completely different than the first workshop a few months ago. That may seem nerve-racking, but it’s the only way I know how to do this.”
Theatergoers witnessed Lee, 35, perform a similar bit of anxiety transferal with her experimental The Shipment, which dared the audience to laugh at racial tropes and stereotypes through a succession of satiric tableaux, by turns probing, discomfiting, and hilarious. “I was disturbed by several things at the earliest stages of that work, too,” Lee says. “At previews, people got that it was humorous, but they were laughing in the
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(Young Jean Lee's work is included in One on One: The Best Women's Monologues for the 21st Century and Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—both from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)
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