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Saturday, July 24, 2021

A one-hit wonder from Lauren Yee arrives at SF Playhouse

Playwright Lauren Yee acknowledges a longtime fascination with exploring what becomes the inevitable song of summer in any given year and does her best to anticipate it in advance.

It’s one of the things that inspired him to write “The Song of Summer,” his poignant comedy now playing at the San Francisco Playhouse.

“I think one of the key ingredients of any song of the summer is the sum total of left-field quality to it,” Yee says. “I think that’s why you see a lot of one-hit wonders with the song of the summer. It’s usually something you didn’t expect. There’s a sense of contagiousness, and there’s a phrase that you usually pin down.” can do. “

Now based in New York, Yee is a San Francisco native, whose hometown has been able to see her dazzlingly inventive work from the very beginning of her career, with the impact theaters of “Ching Chong Chinaman” and “Crevis” Blessed to be. Berkeley with Alter Theater in San Rafael and “A Man, His Wife and His Hat” (later renamed “The Hatmaker’s Wife”); for “Hookman” with Berkeley’s Encore Theater Company; “In One Word” and “King of the Yes” with the San Francisco Playhouse; and “The Great Leap” at the American Conservatory Theater.

“The Great Leap” will open the San Jose Stage Company season this October after being produced by ACT in 2019, and its play “Cambodian Rock Band” will finally play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater next June after playing South Coast Rap and Bay in Oregon. will come to the area. Shakespeare Festival.

“The Song of Summer” is about a homecoming in itself. Suddenly a pop star becoming an instant smash sensation with his first and only single, Robbie suddenly goes AWOL from his tour to return to his hometown and visit his childhood piano teacher. Is he merely running away from controversy that his song’s suggestive lyrics and very familiar melody have caused a stir, or is he looking for something else?

“I was really fascinated by the songs that sound like other songs and there is growing awareness of music copyright issues,” Yee recalls. “What came out recently was a lawsuit between Robin Thicke and Pharrell (Williams) against the estate of Marvin Gaye over the song ‘Blurred Lines.’ And what I thought was interesting was that this wasn’t a case where they were doing this. were copying the melody into the song and so they were plagiarizing it. It was something less tangible. It was about the things that it does musically that mimics the effect of the song, especially without copying it into the melody.”

The play, commissioned by Trinity Rape in Providence, Rhode Island, premiered in 2019, and ran the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis later that year.

“What was fun with Trinity Rap Production is that we were able to commission an original pop song to be written for the show,” Yee says. “This is what the whole piece revolves around, the hit song of the summer that everyone is focusing on. I wrote the play first and then I gave the parameters to the songwriters, Max Vernon and Helen Park, and they made this song Who filled all those parameters. I think they are using it for this show.”

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