OH SAY YASSS TO THE KING OF THE YEES AT THE NAC ENGLISH THEATRE
Anything that’s set in Chinatown gets my attention.
And it doesn’t matter where that Chinatown may be, we know that they are literally in almost every country in the world. Which is kind of funny, as it’s actually become one of the most common denominator amongst global cities across the globe; they all have their cherished Little Chinatown.
The truth is, aside from the food, the ‘exotic’ and ethnic markets and the endless comings and goings of people, both local and visitors, Chinatown make me feel like ‘home.’
Well, at least the closest to home I can get.
King of the Yees stars Milton Lim and Andrea Yu. Photo Emily Cooper.
In Chinatown, I’m surrounded by people who are kind of like me, looks like me and generally, have the same identity as me. And essentially, that really is the central theme to the National Arts Centre English Theatre’s new comedy, The King of The Yees, isn’t it?
It’s all about identity.
Gateway Theatre Jovanni Sy stars as Larry Yee. Photo by David Cooper.
KING OF THE YEES BY GATEWAY THEATRE PRODUCTION GOES TO CANADA’S MAIN STAGE
You don’t have to be Chinese or Korean or Spanish or Jewish to identify with Lauren Yee’s high-acclaimed play. You just have to be human and you can relate to the key elements at play at this… err… play.
I’d hazard to say it’s something very Canadian to feel and experience at some point of our lives. Except our First Nations Peoples, none of us are really from here and so we struggle with identity of being here but have also come from somewhere else. How is does one reconcile being Asian American or Filipino Canadian or British Canadian, etc.? Which leads to some moments of introspection of who we are, the values and culture we identify with and if that’s not enough, how do we reconcile that to today’s rapidly moving society where these same values and culture are in danger of being discarded and forgotten. Especially amongst the younger generation.
King of the Yees stars Milton Lim in many roles and Andrea Yu as Lauren Yee. Photo Emily Cooper.
In this case… a danger of losing your ‘Yee.’
Which curiously is exactly what happened at this Richmond-based Gateway Theatre production when Larry Yee, father of Lauren Yee, disappeared. With a brilliant all-Canadian cast that hailed from the West Coast, the play is rife with conflict, comedy and candor. Slightly tweaked by the playwright over the past year after the King of the Yees stints in Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle with different theatre companies, the semi-autobiographical play is now on centre stage at Canada’s main stage – the National Arts Centre English Theatre.
The Face Changing Character by Raugi Yu. Photo by David Cooper.
Yes, there are quite a number of scenes where stereotypes and generalizations were used to ramp up the sense of humour but it works. And it works because in a non-politically correct way, that’s exactly what identity is all about. Rightly or wrongly, we attribute certain characteristics to a group of people and that’s how we know who’s who. And when you add a dash of wit and a sprinkle of slapstick comedy, the whole theatre laughs in unison.
NAC English Theatre hosts the Opening Night of King of the Yees at the Nationl Arts Center.
#KINGOFTHEYEES ON COMEDY, RACE AND IDENTITY
Why? Because humour serves an important social function beyond temporary bouts of laughter. Because funny is our way of working through difficult subjects or feelings.
Because while many see comedy like #TheKingOfTheYees as merely funny, with a fabulous set and a couple of heart thumping lion dance performance, the truth is, there’s more to it than just a laugh. Beneath the humor of losing and finding her dad, lies a rich and complex layer of social commentary about race and identity relations.
Jillian Keiley welcomes King of the Yees, one of the NAC’s English Theatre presentations.
King of the Yees cast & crew acknowledge the crowd at the after show reception. Photo by Alan Wainwright Photography
With actors playing multiple roles in a fast pace stage, the entire cast is extraordinary in terms of owning each of those characters and immersing themselves into the physicality of showing a really wide range of emotions. If I may say so myself, they were really, really good.
Check out the Richmond Sentinel’s feature here and Ottawa’s Arts File review of the King Of The Yees here.
Twenty York street was honoured to attend the Gateway Theatre Production (Richmond BC) Opening Night of the of King of the Yees. Also joined with our Algonquin elder.
For more photos of the King Of The Yees Opening Night Reception, check below and visit our Facebook page here. Also check out the NAC Experience Tour we took before the show.
Visitors can avail themselves of the NAC Experience Tour. Check with the NAC to arrange your own guided tour of this truly spectacular Ottawa icon.
CATCH #KINGOFTHEYEES DEBUT AT THE NAC ENGLISH THEATRE
As Alan, who left Liverpool to come to Canada, said… “The play has a number of dramatic and humorous twists which reflect the strong cultural ties that are connected to the past but are firmly entrenched in the now. A unique presentation, which will have you laughing and thinking at the same time. A wonderful look into a world many of us are not too familiar with.” Perhaps not familiar on the outside yet deep down, we know exactly what they’re talking about because just like them, sometimes we also wonder, “Who Am I?”
NAC English Theatre Director Jillian Keiley toasts the cast and crew. Photo by Alan Wainwright Photography.
King of the Yees
By: Lauren Yee
Directed by: Sherry J. Yoon
A Gateway Theatre (Richmond, BC) Production
October 25- November 11, 2017
Wait… did I mention there are three Lauren Yees in this play? We met all three. How lucky are we.
But talk about identity crisis.
Playing at the National Arts Centre until November 11, 2017, go see The King Of The Yees! You’ll laugh, you’ll think and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be calling your dad too.
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Disclosure: Twenty York Street were provided tickets to the King of the Yees. All opinion and Opening Reception images are our own.
As part of Twenty York’s recent visit we were provided with a tour of the new area which surrounds the new 20m high Klpnes Lantern, the signature feature of this particular phase of the rebuild. Check out more photos here and here.
Twenty York Streets’ Taiwanese guests (professional models and actor Chin Pao and Chin Kai (JianFan) meet with Andrea Yu (Lauren) and Raugi Yu (Actor #1) at the after show reception.