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TBA Online: News & Features: March 2016

In Memoriam: Cherylene Lee

Friday, March 18, 2016   (0 Comments)
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By Laura Brueckner

Actor and writer Cherylene Lee. 

After more than a decade of battling breast cancer, playwright and actor Cherylene Lee passed away last night in San Francisco, at approximately 11 p.m., with her sisters by her side.

Lee was born in Los Angeles in 1956. She began appearing on television at the age of three, and continued to become a regular on many popular shows; she was also a prolific writer, publishing short fiction, poetry and—in August of 2015—a memoir entitled, Just Like Really: An Uncommon Chinese American Memoir

Lee also created a rich body of work as a playwright, often exploring the overlap between the personal and the political. Her plays include: Antigone Falun Gong (world premiere, Aurora Theatre, Berkeley); The Legacy Codes (world premiere, TheatreWorks, Palo Alto); Knock Off Balance (winner of the 2000 Rella Lossy Playwright Award); Carry the Tiger to the Mountain (published in New Dramatists 2000: Best Plays of the Graduating Class); Arthur and Leila (Brava! For Women in the Arts, SF; published in Women's Playwrights: Best Plays of 1993); Wong Bow Rides Again; The Ballad of Doc Hay (Marin Community Playhouse and the Chinese Cultural Center, SF) and In the Spirit..., in collaboration with the San Jose Taiko Drummers and Abhinaya Dance Co. (Mayer Theater, San Jose).

Cherylene Lee and Gene Kelly in “Gene Kelly Spectacular”
(1958). Photo:

Her original musical (with composer Donald Eldon Wescoat), Lost Vegas Acts, about three Chinese American sisters who were child performers in Vegas during the 1960s, was awarded a San Francisco Arts Commission grant for concert performances at Z Space and a Villa Montalvo residency with San Jose Repertory Theater. 

Lee was a shining talent and will be sorely missed. Memorial services are being planned in the Bay Area and Los Angeles; more information to come.