Lauren Yee. Photo: Joey Yee.
Lauren Yee is a playwright born and raised in San Francisco. She lives in New York City. She received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.F.A. in playwriting from University of California, San Diego. Lauren’s work includes King of the Yees, The Great Leap, Cambodian Rock Band, Ching Chong Chinaman, The Hatmaker’s Wife, and others. She has been a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, and a MAP Fund grantee. She is the winner of the Kesselring Prize and the Francesca Primus Prize. She has been a finalist for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the ATCA/Steinberg Award, and others. The Hatmaker’s Wife was an Outer Critics Circle nominee for the John Gassner Award for best play by a new American playwright. Lauren is a member of the Ma-Yi Theatre Writers Lab, a 2018/2019 Hodder fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, and a New Dramatists playwright.
An excerpt from Cambodian Rock Band:
THAT’S why i’m here? you’re going to kill me over that? what i wrote down on a piece of paper?!
i’m going to get someone to do it for me, but yes.
you don’t even know what that is.
CIA code, obviously.
but if brother number one wants to know what it means? what will you tell him? how will you explain it?
it’s a message. to your operatives, that’s what it is.
but what if you’re wrong?
what what what?
(deliberate) what if you’re wrong.
luckily, that is never the case.
except this time you are. you kill me now, you will never know the answer. and then what will brother number one think of your excellent investigative work, comrade duch?
(DUCH gestures for LENG to go.)
you may go.
comrade, you may go.
(LENG stand there.)
you and i will have the opportunity to discuss your overzealous extracurricular activities at a later date.
(LENG exists, shuts the door.)
they’re lyrics. to a song.
(DUCH looks down at the piece of paper.)
it doesn’t even rhyme.
it does in english.
and where did you get it from?
i wrote it down from memory.
because you’re a spy.
because i’m a musician. my band and i used to play this song all the time. it’s a very popular song.
then why don’t i know it?
you will, once i play it.
let’s hear it. this “song,” these “lyrics.”
i need an instrument first.
find me an instrument and we’ll do it later.
you mean tomorrow.
i just want you to hear how it’s supposed to be played. so you know the absolute truth.
(DUCH goes to the box of torture instruments, pulls out an electric guitar. he hands it to him.)
this is a stratocaster.
where did you get this from?
i have a way of making things appear and disappear.
(DUCH plus the electric guitar into the wall. CHUM plays a note.)
i usually play bass.
if you can play bass, you can play guitar.
how do you know that?
i tend to know everything. now impress me.
i i i i
i don’t know if i remember how it goes.
up to you.
(CHUM closes his eyes, listens to something inside of him. he plays. SONG: “TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’ ”)
okay. fine. it wasn’t electric.
but hey, you know what? maybe it was!
maybe i did plug it in.
maybe dylan really did go electric in cambodia.
you don’t know.
this is my story, i could tell you anything i want.
isn’t that strange?
while you are here
in this space
i can tell you anything and you will believe it.
because whoever tells the story tells the truth.
because if a tree falls in a forest and that forest is a communist dictatorship and the dictator
has ordered you to cut down all the trees to make way for the forest you’re supposed to be
planting, then who’s to say what did or didn’t happen!
but what if for certain:
for the first time in days weeks years, i am asleep.
(DUCH drifts off to sleep.)
and i am transported to a place where i am just an innocent bystander.
(CHUM finishes his song.)
and the next morning, i kill him.
(CHUM looks at DUCH, waits.)
i try to.
i mean, the capitalist.
the master of sleep.
but i forget.
yes, that’s it.
i plan to kill him, but you know what?
every night, i forget.
about pol pot.
about central committee.
about every single thing breathing down my neck.
so every night
one more night.
what do you want to hear tomorrow?
and i write down on the back of his photo: “keep for use.”
“keep for use.”
(CHUM back on his guitar as DUCH listens. DUCH looks at the piece of paper.)
what does it mean?
but the message of it.
i never really thought about it.
you sang it all the time.
i never chose the songs we played.
you were a member of the band.
i was just the bassist. it wasn’t my place to decide.
you were just following orders.
Last / Next Article