Young Jean Lee finds it wild that her name is on a Broadway marquee. The playwright makes her Main Stem debut with Second Stage Theater’s production of Straight White Men, marking the first time an Asian-American woman has been produced on Broadway.
Watch the video above to hear from Lee, director Anna D. Shapiro, and the stars—including Armie Hammer and Josh Charles—as they discuss bringing the comedic drama, which subverts the notions of identity and privilege, to its largest audience yet.
“We’re in this moment of huge transformation, where straight white men are suddenly experiencing some of what other people have been experiencing throughout history, which is the experience of being labeled—the experience of being stereotyped,” Lee explains. “I think that this play explores that in a compassionate way.”
Lee typically directs her own work, including Straight White Men in its Off-Broadway run and at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. For the Broadway bow, however, Tony winner and Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro takes the reins: “In the process of getting to know her and working through all the changes she made at Steppenwolf, we just found that we were copacetic,” says Shapiro. “So we come at it with the relationship of being producer-director.” She adds, “It’s got to be really hard for her to watch me make mistakes, but you wouldn’t know, because she’s the most gracious person in the world.”
Lee isn’t the only one making her Broadway debut with the piece. In fact, of the six artists taking the stage in the play, five are new to the Great White Way, including Hammer.
“It’s extremely exciting,” the Call Me By Your Name star tells Playbill. “It feels like a culmination of my entire career and all of my training…and if it doesn’t work well, I’m going to call every one of my old acting teachers and ask for all my money back.”
Despite the title, the cast also includes two performers who are not straight white men: Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe—two trans artists who kick off the show before the action unfolds on stage by greeting the audience.
“My favorite part of theatre is that exchange between the actors and the audience,” Lee says, “and to have this completely new audience that I've never dealt with before is going to be really fascinating to me.”
Straight White Men, which also features Paul Schneider and Tony nominee Denis Arndt, begins June 29 at the Hayes Theater, where opening night is set for July 23.