Playwright's Statement

Artistic Statement

UnnamedAfter acting on Broadway, David Rhee decided to change the trajectory of his career by writing his own plays. “I became frustrated with the roles I was being offered and the roles that were out there for a person of my type. My friend Dom pointedly said, ‘Look you have three options: realize that there are certain “Asian” shows and just do them, quit, or write your own shows.’ Needless to say I decided to write, but the question was about what?”

In 2012 before the start of the London Olympics, New York Times online ran a series of videos of American athletes who participated in the games the last time London hosted the Olympics in 1948. One of those Olympians was Dr. Sammy Lee, a diver who won the gold medal in London, and then became the first Olympic diver to win back to back gold medals four years later in Helsinki.

“Compelled by the fact that I had never heard of Dr. Lee and that he faced many of the struggles I face as an actor of color, I decided to do some research and found that not only did he win back to back gold medals, but he is also an ENT doctor, served in World War II, became the first Asian-American Olympic medal winner, and went onto coach Olympic gold medal winner Greg Louganis. My only question was who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him before?” 

The result is Penuel: The Sammy Lee Story, a project three years in the making, and I'm so proud to be sharing it with Silk Road Rising in its first public inception. “The play is the result of a lot of frustration and countless rewrites which are still going on in my head. I don’t think it’s ready, but I need to know where’s it at and the only way to know is to perform it for a live audience. And if it’s not good? I can only hope I’ve done Dr. Lee justice. Frankly he deserves so much more.”