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Straight White Men

by Young Jean Lee

Director / Producing Artistic Director’s notes by Emilia Sargent

We at the Tampa Repertory Theatre are thrilled to have you here with us for our thirteenth season of creating transformative, relevant, and compelling professional theatre that connects us through meaningful and inspiring shared experiences. This season, we are exploring identity,
both individual and as a community. Straight White Men by Young Yean Lee is an inventive and provocative play that explores the complex and often contradictory nature of identity, power and privilege, and masculinity through a hilarious look at family dynamics.

“There is nothing you can do to erase the problem of your own existence”

Certainly, the theme of identity is not new, but the lens through which we look at identity and our view of our place in the world is changed following the past few years of turbulence and divisiveness. It is impossible not to examine identity through the lens of privilege, and by
extension power, in today’s world. Identity politics are a part of our world.

In Straight White Men, Lee explores an identity that she talked about feeling the most challenging to her: straight white men. The play explores the questions of what straight white men are, and what we want them to be – or think we want them to be. Lee shows a compassion for the characters, touching on the discontent and human pain that is universally part of the human condition.

I am moved by Lee’s statements,

“You can have empathy for people without just leveling out all human experience as we all suffer equally.”


“It’s like you’re good or you’re evil – you’re a queer woman of color or you’re some version of entitled privileged person. I feel like compassion is very out right now. Curiosity is out. What’s in is condemnation and punishment. Now is not the moment for
nuance; people do not want it.”

Lee challenges us to think critically about what it means to be a straight white man in America today without becoming a simple condemnation of white male privilege. Instead, she creates a compassionate exploration of the ways in which white men are both shaped by and complicit in
systems of oppression. Identity is subjective. There is no one right way to be a man – or a human, for that matter.

It is my hope that, at the end of the play, we are left questioning stereotypes in a little more equitable way by examining the human condition with more individualized compassion. We are still trying to learn how to navigate the challenges of being human – together. There are no
simple answers. It is my hope for humanity that we can find ways in which we can all work together to create a more just and equitable society.

– Emilia Sargent, Producing Artistic Director and Director of Straight White Men
February 2024

Straight White Men
Georgia Mallory Guy