Critical Context

Philip Kan Gotanda established his national reputation with a series of realistic plays focused primarily on struggles within Japanese American families. These works included a trilogy of plays created during the 1980’s, each of which showed the same Nisei family from the perspective of a different family member. Gotanda’s focus on the professional lives of Asian American actors and the discrimination in the Hollywood entertainment industry in Yankee Dawg You Die appealed to broader audiences, and since the 1990’s, the play has been produced not only in Asian American theaters but also in larger venues across the country. In addition to his successes in theater, he has also written, directed, and performed in award-winning independent films. Gotanda ranks among the most important pioneers of Asian American theater, finding a niche among notable literary figures such as Frank Chin, David Henry Hwang, and Velina Hasu Houston.

Yankee Dawg You Die continues to be performed and read for its exploration of the power of racial and gender stereotypes in contemporary lives as well as its examination of the power of the entertainment industry to perpetuate or fracture such fixed images. The play’s glimpses into the history of Asians in film and theater offer opportunities to research and discuss American social change during the twentieth century.