Esther Kim Lee

Esther Kim Lee
Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies
Academic Rank: 
Associate Professor
2823 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Esther Kim Lee teaches courses in theatre history, theory, and criticism. She specializes in Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. Her book, The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama), was published in December 2015. She was the Chief Editor of Theatre Survey, the official journal of the American Society for Theatre Research from 2013 to 2014. Her new research project explores the history of yellowface in the United States, and she received the Graduate School Research and Scholarship Award for summer of 2015. Her website is


Ph.D., Theatre History, Literature, and Criticism, Ohio State University, Columbus, 2000; M. A., Dramatic Arts, University Of California, Santa Barbara, 1995; B. A., Computer Science, University Of California, Santa Barbara, 1992

Areas of Specialization/Interest:

Theatre History, Asian American Theatre, Asian Diaspora Theatre, Korean Diaspora Drama, Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Performance Theory, Globalization and Theatre.

Professional Affiliations:

American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR); Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE); Performance Studies International (PSi); Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS); International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR); American Studies Association (ASA)

Representative Publications/Research Activities:
Research Grants and Fellowships:
Creative Activities

The Theatre of David Henry Hwang. Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015.

“Asian American Drama.” The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature. Eds. Rajini Srikanth and Min Song. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

"Designed Bodies:  A Historiographical Study of Costume Design and Asian American Theatre." The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater. Ed. Nadine George-Graves. Oxford University Press, 2015. 

Invited Lecture. Crystal Cruise Serenity. Themed Lecture on Asian American Theatre. “‘A Hundred Million Miracles’: Fifty Years of Asian American Theatre from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song to George Takei’s Allegiance.” May, 2015. 

Invited Lecture. Department of Theatre and Film, Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea. “‘Korean American Playwrights. ”November, 2014. 

Invited Lecture. Department of Drama and Theatre, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. ““The Theatricalized Body of Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu.” November, 2014.

Invited speaker. National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Home: The State of Asian American Theatre.” October, 2014. 

“Asian American Women Playwrights and the Dilemma of the Identity Play: Staging Heterotopic Subjectivities.” Contemporary Women Playwrights. Eds. Penny Farfan and Lesley Ferris. Palgrave Macmillan. 2014.

Invited Lecture. School of Drama, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. “The Theatricalized Body of Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu.” April, 2014.

Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas.  Duke University Press, 2012. Editor.

 “All the Stage’s a World: The Organization of International, Multicultural, and Global Theatre Companies in the U.S.” An Unimagined Space: Beyond the New WORLD Theater. Ed. Chinua Akimaro Thelwell. Forthcoming.

“Patient Zero: Jean Yoon and Korean Canadian Theatre.” Asian Canadian Theatre. Eds. Nina Lee Aquino and Ric Knowles. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 2011. 

“Avant-Garde Becomes Nationalism: Immortalizing Nam June Paik in South Korea.”  Avant-Garde Performance and Material Exchange: Vectors of the Radical.  Ed. Mike Sell. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

A History of Asian American Theatre.  Cambridge University Press, 2006. Published in paperback in 2011.

Journal Editor: Theatre Survey, Associate Editor (2011-2012) and Editor (2013-14).

Book Award: A History of Asian American Theatre.  Outstanding Book Award, 2007. Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Fellowships: Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities Fellowship Award (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); Co-Sponsorship Award given by ASTR (American Society for Theatre Research); Amy Ling Memorial Research Grant.  Sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program (UIUC); College of Fine and Applied Arts Special Grant (UIUC); Arnold O. Beckman Research Award, Research Board (UIUC).
Graduate School Research and Scholarship Award (UMD)