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Lauren Yee from UC San Diego
Triton Women: Making an Impact

In honor of Women’s History month, This Week is featuring a series of stories highlighting UC San Diego female faculty, staff, students and alumnae and the difference they are making in the world

Lauren Yee, MFA ’12

She works as… a playwright and TV/film writer, currently living in New York City.

The best part of her day is… The point where she stops writing for the day: “It’s what I love to do, but it never gets any easier.”

One woman she looks up to is… “My great-grandmother was a tough lady who could do anything. She was widowed right at the start of WWII and continued to raise seven children in San Francisco all on her own. Pretty badass.”

It is safe to say Lauren Yee, a 2012 MFA alumna from the Department of Theatre and Dance, is taking the theater world by storm. One of the most promising up-and-coming playwrights today—the Los Angeles Times dubbed her a “playwright on the verge”—Yee has not only had her work produced at high-profile companies across the globe, but she’s getting critical acclaim for them, too.

Lauren Yee from UC San Diego at Yeemichaelcourier samsara opening

“I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. And it was when I realized that I could tell stories through theater— with other people!—that’s when I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Yee said. “Writing can be lonely, and as a playwright, I find so much joy in starting the rehearsal process with actors and a director and a design team. It’s like my reward, if I’ve done my job correctly, is finally getting to be in a room with other people.”

An example for all playwrights, she has been a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize—a prestigious award that honors women playwrights from around the world—two years in a row: in 2018 for “The Great Leap” and this year for “Cambodian Rock Band.”

Yee’s work is deeply personal, often reflecting her Asian heritage and growing up as Chinese-American in San Francisco. She said the writing process is something she loves, but called it a “puzzle” in need of putting together in the right order.

“It’s always a constantly challenging puzzle, that can sometimes feel like an impossible one,” she said, “and it always takes a lot of effort—from me and others—to make it into something exciting.”

It’s effort well spent, and San Diego will soon see Yee’s return—twice— as “Cambodian Rock Band” is part of the upcoming La Jolla Playhouse season and “The Great Leap” premieres at Cygnet Theatre early 2020.

Does she have a story from campus to tell? Of course.

“I survived three years at UC San Diego without a car. And the fact that I somehow made it through—on foot, on buses, in friends’ cars—is kind of miraculous to me,” she said. “I took a lot of 30 bus rides down the coast to Bird Rock.”