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Esther Kim Lee (PhD, '00): Yellowface in Theatre History

Esther Kim
February 23, 2024
1:00PM - 2:30PM
240 Stillman Hall, 1947 College Road

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Add to Calendar 2024-02-23 13:00:00 2024-02-23 14:30:00 Esther Kim Lee (PhD, '00): Yellowface in Theatre History Esther Kim Lee (PhD, '00) will deliver a talk on yellowface in theatre history. The talk is based on the book Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era, which traces the history of yellowface, the theatrical convention of non-Asian actors putting on makeup and costume to look East Asian. Using specific case studies from European and U.S. theater, race science, and early film, the book examines the development of yellowface in the U.S. context during the Exclusion Era (1862–1940), when Asians faced legal and cultural exclusion from immigration and citizenship. By examining the makeup technology of yellowface, the talk analyzes how theatre historians should rethink key foundational concepts and historical narratives.  It questions the dominance of mimesis in discussions of acting and racialize performances and argues for a broader conceptualization of theatre history. Lee is Frances Hill Fox Professor of Theater Studies and the Director of Asian American & Diaspora Studies Program at Duke University. She teaches and writes about theatre history, Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. She has authored three monographs: A History of Asian American Theatre (2006), which received the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education; The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (2015); and Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (2022), which received the John W. Frick Book Award from the American Theatre and Drama Society. She edited Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (2012) and the four-volume collection, Modern and Contemporary World Drama: Critical and Primary Sources (2022), which challenges the prevailing Eurocentric reading of modern drama. In 2023, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. http://estherkimlee.com/ 240 Stillman Hall, 1947 College Road Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Arts theatreandfilm@osu.edu America/New_York public

Esther Kim Lee (PhD, '00) will deliver a talk on yellowface in theatre history. The talk is based on the book Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era, which traces the history of yellowface, the theatrical convention of non-Asian actors putting on makeup and costume to look East Asian. Using specific case studies from European and U.S. theater, race science, and early film, the book examines the development of yellowface in the U.S. context during the Exclusion Era (1862–1940), when Asians faced legal and cultural exclusion from immigration and citizenship. By examining the makeup technology of yellowface, the talk analyzes how theatre historians should rethink key foundational concepts and historical narratives.  It questions the dominance of mimesis in discussions of acting and racialize performances and argues for a broader conceptualization of theatre history. 

Lee is Frances Hill Fox Professor of Theater Studies and the Director of Asian American & Diaspora Studies Program at Duke University. She teaches and writes about theatre history, Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. She has authored three monographs: A History of Asian American Theatre (2006), which received the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education; The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (2015); and Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (2022), which received the John W. Frick Book Award from the American Theatre and Drama Society. She edited Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (2012) and the four-volume collection, Modern and Contemporary World Drama: Critical and Primary Sources (2022), which challenges the prevailing Eurocentric reading of modern drama. In 2023, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. http://estherkimlee.com/