Esther Kim Lee

Esther Kim Lee
Job title: 
Director of Graduate Studies
Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies
Academic Rank: 
2823 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Esther Kim Lee is Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies and an affiliate faculty of the Center for Global Migration Studies and the Asian American Studies Program. She teaches and writes about theatre history, Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. She is the author of A History of Asian American Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2006), which received the 2007 Award for Outstanding Book given by Association for Theatre in Higher Education. She is the editor of Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2012). From 2013 to 2014, she was the Chief Editor of Theatre Survey, the flagship journal of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), and starting in 2016, she began her position as ASTR’s Vice President for Publications. Her latest published book is The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), and she is currently working on a monograph on the history of yellowface in the United States. 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

Invited Lecture. English Department, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea. “The Theatre of David Henry Hwang.” July 2017.

Invited Panelist. Korean Diaspora Festival Symposium, National Theater Company of Korea. July 2017.

Invited panelist. James Gallery/Center for the Humanities, New York City. “Performance, Race, Objects, and Time/Temporality.” April 2017.

Invited Lecture. Institute for Korean Studies, Ohio State University. “Korean Avant-Garde Theatre and Sung Rno’s Yi Sang Counts to Thirteen.” March, 2017.

“All the Stage’s a World: The Organization of International, Multicultural, and Global Theatre Companies in the U.S.” Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World. Ed. Chinua Akimaro Thelwell. Routledge, 2017.

Invited Participant, Interweaving Performance Cultures, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. “Performance Related Concepts in Non-European Languages – Korean.” July 2016.

“Strangers Onstage: Asia, America, Theatre, and Performance.” The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. 28.1 (Winter 2016).

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.

“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: Research and Scholarship Award (UMD), 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).