Lauren Yee’s ‘King of the Yees’ to Make Its World Premiere at L.A.’s Kirk Douglas Theatre

Family secrets cross national and cultural lines, and every social group has its hidden societies. From the Mafia to the tongs, clandestine groups that protected their members in the old countries find their way through immigration. Lauren Yee’s new play explores what happens when skeletons fall out of the closet. Center Theatre Group will present the world premiere production of “King of the Yees” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The play was directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. It is being produced in association with Goodman Theatre. “King of the Yees” begins previews July 9. The play opens July 16 and runs through Aug. 6.

“For nearly 20 years, playwright Lauren Yee’s father Larry has been a driving force in the Yee Family Association, a seemingly obsolete Chinese American men’s club formed 150 years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush,” reads the official synopsis. “But when her father goes missing, Lauren plunges into the rabbit hole of San Francisco’s Chinatown to confront a world both foreign and familiar.”

In China, the tongs are a secret society that can trace its roots to the Qing Dynasty. They came to America as a merchant association protecting workers lured by the post-Gold Rush boom to dig mines and build railroads. Originally the tongs fought the widespread racial prejudice that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  The membership eventually learned it was also profitable to skirt the law. This isn’t something members openly shared with their daughters.

But when daughters look for answers, it could lead to an exciting adventure. “King of the Yees” is a “joyride across cultural, national and familial borders that explores what it means to truly be a Yee,” according to advance press.

Yee wrote the plays “Cambodian Rock Band,” “Ching Chong China Man,” “The Great Leap,” “The Hatmaker’s Wife,” “Hookman,” “in a word,” “Samsara,” and “The Tiger Among Us.” Yee was commissioned by the Denver Center of the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3, Mixed Blood Theatre, Portland Center Stage, South Coast Repertory and Trinity Repertory Company.

“King of the Yees” features actors Rammel Chan, Francis Jue, Angela Lin, Stephenie Soohyun Park and Daniel Smith. Sets were designed by William Boles. The costumes were designed by Izumi Inaba. Heather Gilbert designed the lighting and Mikhail Fiksel created the sound.

Center Theatre Group is Los Angeles’ leading nonprofit theatre company. Previews begin July 9 and will run Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. “King of The Yees” opens July 16 at 6:30 p.m. The regular performances have the same schedule except Sundays, when it will be performed at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  There will be no performances on Mondays.

King of the Yeesruns from July 9 through Aug. 6. at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.