As a director, Chay Yew's New York credits include Mojada, Oedipus el Rey, Durango, Universes’ Ameriville and Low (Public Theater); Cambodian Rock Band (Signature); The Architecture of Loss (New York Theatre Workshop); A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick (Playwrights Horizon); Draw The Circle (Rattlestick, Mosaic Theater Company, InterAct and Playmakers Rep); My Manana Comes (Playwrights Realm); Where Do We Sit On The Bus? (Ensemble Studio Theatre, Playmakers Rep, Boise Contemporary Theater, Teatro Vista, City Theatre and Victory Gardens); The House of Bernarda Alba (National Asian American Theatre Company); and Last of the Suns (Ma-Yi Theatre Company).
Regionally, he directed Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse); Lady in Denmark, Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, Dartmoor Prison, Luis Alfaro's Book of Titus, and Universes’ Blue Suite (Goodman Theatre); Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse); Stuck Elevator and Brain People (American Conservatory Theatre); Durango and Stuck Elevator (Long Wharf Theatre); Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men (Berkeley Rep); Strike/Slip (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival); Low (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse, Pillsbury Theatre); Ameriville (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Roundhouse Theatre, Southern Repertory Theatre and Curious Theatre); Packing (About Face Theatre); Blue Suite (Gala Hispanic Theatre); Citizen 13559: The Diary of Ben Uchida (Kennedy Center); Roz and Ray (Seattle Repertory Theatre); Black Odyssey (Denver Center Theater); Universes’ Spring Training, and Draw The Circle (Playmakers Rep); Hannah and the Dread Gazebo and Our Town (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Lettie, Hillary and Clinton, A Wonder In My Soul, The House That Will Not Stand, Roz and Ray, Gospel of Lovingkindness, Oedipus el Rey, Mojada, Death and the Maiden and Ameriville (Victory Gardens Theater); Boleros for the Disenchanted (Huntington Theatre); Antebellum (Woolly Mammoth Theatre); 36 Views (Portland Center Stage, Geva Theatre Center and Laguna Playhouse); Frozen, Laramie Project and Strange Attractors (Empty Space); Po Boy Tango (Northlight Theatre); M. Butterfly, Golden Child, Durango, Sisters Matsumoto, Big Hunk O’ Burnin’ Love and Pointless (East West Players); Sex Parasite, Question 27 Question 28, Rice Boy, Depth Becomes Her, I Remember Mapa and Drama! (Mark Taper Forum); A Winter People and Winchester House (Theatre at Boston Court); Red (Singapore Repertory Theatre and East West Players); A Beautiful Country (Cornerstone Theatre Company), Home: Places between Asia and America, and Talking with My Hands (Northwest Asian American Theatre); Brian Freeman’s Civil Sex (Walk and Squawk); Denise Uyehara’s Maps of Body and City (Highways Performance Space); and David Schmader’s Straight (Theatre Rhinoceros, Highways and NWAAT). His opera credits include the world premieres of Osvaldo Golijov’s and David Henry Hwang’s Ainadamar (co-production with Tanglewood Music Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Rob Zuidam’s Rage D’Amors (Tanglewood). He is also a recipient of the OBIE, DramaLogue, and the Craig Noel Awards for Direction.
As a playwright, Chay Yew's plays include Porcelain, A Language of Their Own, Red, Wonderland, Question 27 Question 28, A Distant Shore, 17, and Visible Cities. His other work includes adaptations, A Winter People (based on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard) and Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, a musical Long Season and other theatre works, Vivien and the Shadows; Home: Places between Asia and America; and A Beautiful Country.
His work has been produced at the Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Manhattan Theatre Club, Long Wharf Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Intiman Theatre, Wilma Theatre, Portland Center Stage, East West Players, Dallas Theatre Center, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Group Theatre. Studio Theatre, Perseverance Theatre, Dad's Garage, Crowded Fire, Smithsonian Institute, North Carolina Performing Arts, amongst many others. Overseas, his work has been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London, UK), Fattore K and Napoli Teatro Festival (Naples, Italy), La Mama (Melbourne, Australia), Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center (Shanghai, China), Four Arts (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Wild Rice, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Toy Factory, Checkpoint Theatre, and TheatreWorks (Singapore), to name a few.
For his plays, he is the recipient of the London Fringe Award for Best Playwright and Best Play, George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award, GLAAD Media Award, Asian Pacific Gays and Friends’ Community Visibility Award, Made in America Award, AEA/SAG/AFTRA 2004 Diversity Honor, and Robert Chesley Award; he has also received grants from the McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller MAP Fund and the TCG/Pew National Residency Program.
His plays “The Hyphenated American Plays” and “Porcelain and A Language of Their Own” are published by Grove Press; the latter was nominated for a Lamda Literary Award, and anthologized in “Staging Gay Lives,” “Take Out,” “But Still, Like Air, I’ll Rise,” “Humana Festival 2002 and 2006: The Complete Plays” and “American Political Plays After 9/11.” He recently edited two new anthologies “Version 3.0: Contemporary Asian American Plays” for TCG Publications and “Manifesto Series V4” for Rain City Projects. He is presently working on commissions by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Writers Theatre.
An alumnus of New Dramatists in New York and an Affiliate Writer at Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, he has served on the Board of Directors of Theatre Communications Group, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Cultural Advisory Council, the Executive Board on the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and the League of Chicago Theatres. He’s currently on the Executive Board of the Consortium of Asian American Theatre and Artists. He was also an Associate Artist, and the Founder and Director of the Mark Taper Forum’s Asian Theatre Workshop from 1995 to 2005; during that time, he was also producing the Taper, Too seasons.
From 2011 to 2020, Chay Yew was the Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. During his tenure, out of 43 productions, 18 plays received world premieres of which one went to Broadway, four were produced off-Broadway at the Public, Soho Rep, and Signature Theatre, while others were presented regionally, and abroad at Donmar Warehouse and Bush Theatre in London. Three plays also received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work. While at Victory Gardens, he created the Chicago Play Cycle Play, and eight new plays reflecting and representing the diverse communities of Chicago were produced. New plays developed at the annual Ignition Festival of New Plays have gone on to productions at South Coast Rep, Second Stage, Geffen Playhouse, Wilma Theatre, National Black Theatre, Trinity Rep, amongst others. As the theatre's first, he also partnered with City Theatre in Pittsburgh, and Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, on a co-production of Lauren Yee's Cambodian Rock Band.
At Victory Gardens, he established several programs: the Directors Inclusion Initiative to develop emerging Chicago stage directors who identify as people of color, disabled, women, transgender, gender non‐conforming, and/or LGBTQ; the Next Generation Fellowship, a professional development program, for our next generation of arts leaders and managers of color through hands‐on experience, mentorship, career guidance; and the Resident Theatre Program, an incubator for existing Chicago storefront theatres to further each company’s growth and stability by giving them a physical home to nurture its audience base, develop its respective boards, and fully realize the next phases of their strategic plans through multi-year residencies.
Under his artistic leadership, Chay Yew instituted an intentional focus on work that valued and celebrated Chicago's and nation's diversity. In 2017, he created the tag line "Your World On Stage" to signify Victory Gardens' commitment to present stories that reflect Chicago's rich diversity and unique cultures. In 2019, there were more than 40% African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American (ALAANA), and more than 50% women on staff; board composition was more than 40% ALAANA and about 55% women; and Victory Gardens artists comprised of 60% ALAANA with 50% women. For his leadership, he was awarded the Iris Award for Outstanding Commitment to Connecting Chicago Communities and the Arts, and the Impact Award for Bold and Inclusive Artistic Leadership.