Meet the shortlist- Lauren Yee

Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia
By Lauren Yee

‘I don’t know how to buy toothpaste. I go to the store. there are so many brands to choose from now, that I can’t. I go and I come out with nothing. I haven’t brushed in two weeks. my teeth are rotting and I don’t know what to do about it.’

June 1992 – three years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Six months since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Euvgeny and Dmitri, two young Russian bros, are in dead end surveillance jobs. Their latest target is Katya, a young Ukrainian pop star turned nursery teacher – and the ex-girlfriend of their boss. They’re just trying to find their way after the fall of Communism, all watched over by Mother Russia.

Lauren Yee’s CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered at South Coast Rep, subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, City Theatre, Merrimack Rep, Signature Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and Jungle Theatre. Her play THE GREAT LEAP has been produced at the Denver Center, Seattle Repertory, Atlantic Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre, and Steppenwolf, with future productions at Long Wharf and Asolo Rep/Miami New Drama. Honors include the Doris Duke Artists Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg/ATCA Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, Horton Foote Prize, Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, and the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List. She’s a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists members, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. TV credits: PACHINKO (Apple), SOUNDTRACK (Netflix). Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD.


Lauren is eligible for the new Bruntwood Prize International Award. For more information on this award- and the nomination process please go to


What inspired you to write this play?

I’ve actually been on a bit of a history of communism tear. The last two plays prior to this one explored the collision of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian surf rock music in the 70s and the intersection of basketball and post cultural revolution china in the 80s so I guess it was inevitable that I would look at how western culture and advertising would impact early 90s post-USSR Russia. I also think that in times when the present day is overwhelming, history is a really useful and provocative means of exploring current day anxieties.


Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?

I am someone who always wanted to be a storyteller from the time she was very little. But it wasn’t until high school where I intersected with theater. This was the experience I needed to show me how my writing best manifested itself, with the collaboration and creativity of other people.


How do you feel about being shortlisted?

As someone who is primarily made her work in North America, I am delighted to be able to contribute to a wider conversation and introduce my work to the UK.


What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?

I find it so fascinating! I’ve always thought of my work as deeply American from the concerns to the humor so to know that my work reads for a British audience is really exciting. It’s also a delight to see a different play of mine IN A WORD at the Young Vic at roughly the same time, an organization that I deeply admire and have followed for years.

Published on:
1 Nov 2019


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