May Lee-Yang

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HomeArtistsMay Lee-Yang

May is an award-winning playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. She has been hailed by Twin Cities Metro Magazine as “on the way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.” Her theater-based works have been presented locally at Mu Performing Arts, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT), Intermedia Arts as well as nationally at Out North Theater (Anchorage) and the National Asian American Theater Festivals in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Her plays include Hmong-Lao Friendship Play or Lao-Hmong Friendship Play and Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman. In 2012, her company, Lazy Hmong Woman Productions, produced a Hmong-language version of Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman to create accessibility for people who spoke little/no English, were new Americans, or had never seen theater before. In 2014, she launched Letters to Our Grandchildren, a theater/food/storytelling/video project with Hmong elders.

More About the Artist

She is the author of the children’s book The Imaginary Day (MN Humanities Center/Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans) and has been published Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing By Hmong Americans, Water~Stone Literary Journal, The Saint Paul Almanac, and others.

She is a 2016 recipient of the Ordway Sally Award for Arts Access and a 2011 Bush Leadership Fellow. She has received additional support for her artwork from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the MRAC Next Steps Grant, the Jerome Travel Grant, the National Performance Network, the Midwestern Voices and Visions Residency Award, the Playwright Center, and the Kundiman Retreat.

In other parts of her life, she is a co-founder of Community Artist Leadership Initiative (C.A.L.I.), an organization whose mission is to build the leadership capacity of marginalized artist and is a co-founder of F.A.W.K. (Funny Asian Women Kollective), a collaborative to empower Asian women through comedy.

Program Offerings

Virtual and Remote Programs

Art Kit: Poetry Workbook

Inside this booklet, there are several poetry writing exercises for you to try out. A few helpful things to know: poetry does not have to rhyme; there are no right or wrong ways to write; you do not have to do the writing exercises in any particular order. Each writing exercise will include an example poem, some directions on how you can write your own poem, and space to write.
Materials in kit: 1 Poetry Workbook, 1 pen, 1 pencil (in case you’re the type of person who likes to erase), 1 bottle of whiteout (for the erasure poem exercise)


Chasing Down Our Memories Through Writing (Artful Aging™)

Our memory is not always reliable but, as writers, our job is to tell a good story. During this workshop, we’ll go on a literary scavenger hunt, chasing down our memories and using the five senses to breathe life into our story. If we’re lucky, we will not only ground ourselves and our readers in our world, but we’ll also unlock the clue to figuring out: So what? Why does this memory matter? Come ready to jump right into writing. Participants will write one poem and a short piece of creative non-fiction. Each day will include writing prompts (avenues through which people can unlock their creativity), a group writing exercise (to model the writing process), and a main writing exercise (which provides participants with the opportunity to write something on their own). All classes will include time to write, share, and ask questions.

Crash Course in Creating Theater

Theater and performance can be a powerful way to tell stories in an engaging format.  Using the question, “What are the things you wish to leave behind for younger generations?” to guide us, we will use our bodies, voices, and imaginations to create an original performance piece. Participants will play theater games, do improv, learn about creating characters, and get a taste of the creation, rehearsal, and performance process involved in creating theater.

Creative Writing

Students can find their voices in poetry, prose, flash fiction, speculative fiction, and perhaps other forms that probably exist but whose names I’m not aware of as of yet. We will read works from other writers to get inspiration. We will write, get peer feedback and practice revision. At the end of each residency, we will celebrate our success as well as validate the voices of students by staging an informal reading. I can tweak lesson plans to fit the specific needs of each class. Some themes I’m interested in exploring with students include memory, humor, discovering our own voices and, in general, having fun. I’m also available to do workshops specifically around Hmong literature, writing and identity.


“I would definitely book May again. Her energy and enthusiasm along with her knowledge of the topic created a wonderful experience for our students.”

Ms. Hodapp, DeLaSalle High School

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COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.