Umbrella Talk with playwright David Yee

This week on Umbrella Talk is playwright David Yee. David's play
lady in the red dress, produced by leading Asian Canadian theatre company fu-GEN, begins previews this Saturday, January 24th, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto's Distillery District. Its world premiere is on Thursday, January 29th and the show runs until February 21st. David talks to us here now on Umbrella Talk and he tells us which two extraordinary and visionary directors would tag team to direct the coolest production of one of his plays; where in Canada he would like to see his plays produced and which famous poet's quote he finds inspiring.

A little more on David Yee
David Yee is a playwright and actor, born and raised in Toronto. A proud Hapa of equal Chinese & Scottish descent, his work has been produced internationally and at home. He most recently contributed to the writing team behind Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland’s Fear of Flight. David was former Associate Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, and is now their playwright-in-residence. He is currently working on a number of projects with various companies, always in effort to promote interculturalism in the Toronto theatre community.

Umbrella Talk with David Yee

What do you drink on opening night?

I usually nurse a bottle of water and smoke a half-pack of cigarettes. By the time I’m finished smoking, most of the people I didn’t want to talk to have already left.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?

A tag team between Nina Lee Aquino and Jillian Keiley. The room would explode from over-talent. They are both extraordinary and visionary directors, but I can’t stand either of them as people. I’m kidding. Jillian is very sweet.

What scares you? What can't you write about?

Spiders scare the fuck outta me. So I guess “Arachnophobia: The Classic Story On Stage” is probably off the playwriting bucket list.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?

My final report for the Canada Council. Other than that… I’ve always wanted to write a musical. I don’t know why.

If someone were to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)

Already been done. It’s called “The Misanthrope”. So… comedy, I guess?

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?

I don’t mind either, as long as it’s honest. People praise and criticize usually just to hear themselves talk. In those situations, I tend to just tune out and think about what to make for dinner that night. But if it’s honest, in those rare circumstances, I welcome both equally.

Where would you like your work to be produced?

Eastern Canada, or other Canadian centres with a small but thriving Pan-Asian community who have probably never seen their experiences reflected on stage.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?

Keyboard. That’s how I roll. I like writing somewhere I can smoke and be left to my own devices. Hotel rooms are great for that. The anonymity hotels provide is very conducive to writing for me. Knowing that I’m somewhere no one can find and bother me helps me concentrate on the task at hand. It also means that I can procrastinate and watch porn all day and no one would know. Sometimes the freedom to do fuck all begets the ability to work without distraction.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?

“He seemed to say ‘fuck’ a lot. What do you think that means?”

What inspires you?

Auden said:

If thou must choose
Between the chances, choose the odd;
Read The New Yorker, trust in God;
And take short views.

I find that inspiring.

Thanks again for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. If you are a playwright that has been produced a few times here in Canada or elsewhere and would like to talk to us too, please send us an e-mail to


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