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Tiger Style!’ Tackles Asian-American Experience With Humor

Photo caption:

Photo by La Jolla Playhouse

A poster for "Tiger Style!," a play running through Oct. 2 at the La Jolla Playhouse.

La Jolla Playwright Returns Home With 'Tiger Style!'


Mike Lew, playwright, "Tiger Style!"


When Mike Lew graduated La Jolla High School in 2000, his parents had every expectation he was on his way to medical school. But Lew surprised his parents, both doctors, when he decided to focus on theater in college. The switch has paid off, with Lew finding success in New York as a playwright.

Lew's back home this fall with the West Coast premiere of his play "Tiger Style!" at the La Jolla Playhouse, a comedy about two Asian-American siblings struggling with their careers and romantic lives. They accuse their parents of focusing too much on test scores and not enough on life skills, including dealing with racial prejudice.

Lew said he once had a similar conversation with his father, sharing his struggles in the theater business as an Asian-American. "Why didn't you tell me that life would be hard because I'm Asian?" Lew asked.

“I didn’t think I had to tell you, ‘Hey, you’re Asian, life if going to be tough out there,’” his father said.

"My parents, as doctors, have a certain gallows humor about their patients. You can’t sugarcoat a diagnosis," Lew told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "They never really got into the obstacles that they might have faced themselves, and they never addressed it with me."

Lew also said he wanted to add his perspective on "tiger parenting." The strict parenting style associated with Chinese parents became controversial when Amy Chua's memoir, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," came out in 2011.

"I think that the debate around that book has been very one-sided in that a lot of the vehement responses to it have not come from Asian-Americans," Lew said. "And so rather than trying to either support or negate what was said in that book, I just want to add a perspective that was actually Asian."

"Tiger Style!" runs through Oct. 2 at the La Jolla Playhouse.


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