Luke Yankee

Luke Yankee

Luke Yankee (yes, it’s his real name) is a writer, director, producer, actor, and teacher. His play, "The Last Lifeboat" (published by Dramatists Play Service) has had more than 50 productions in North America and has won over 60 regional awards in the past four years. He is the author of the memoir, "Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart" (published by Random House,...
Luke Yankee (yes, it’s his real name) is a writer, director, producer, actor, and teacher. His play, "The Last Lifeboat" (published by Dramatists Play Service) has had more than 50 productions in North America and has won over 60 regional awards in the past four years. He is the author of the memoir, "Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart" (published by Random House, with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore). Renowned performing arts critic Michael Musto placed it on his list of the "Ten Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time" and called it “One of the most compassionate, illuminating showbiz books ever written.” Luke’s other critically acclaimed plays include "A Place at Forest Lawn" (also published by Dramatists Play Service), "The Man Who Killed The Cure" (a semifinalist for the 2018 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference) and "The Jesus Hickey" (published by Amazon), winner of the TRU Voices Award, as well as the Joel and Phyllis Ehrlich Award, given for “a socially relevant, commercially viable, new work of theatre.” He directed the Los Angeles premiere at the Skylight Theatre, starring Harry Hamlin. "The Man Who Killed The Cure" was chosen for Theatre Harrisburg’s New Works Festival and received its first full production at the University of California, Irvine. It recently had its first regional production at the Dayton Theatre Guild.

His latest play, “Confessions of a Star Maker” (based on his award-winning TV pilot) was recently a finalist for the Screencraft stageplay competition and was chosen for the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. Luke has also created two one-man shows, "Diva Dish!" and "Diva Dish: The Second Helping" with he has performed all over the U.S. and on more than 25 cruises internationally. He has also adpted several of his plays into screenplays and television scripts, which have won awards with Scriptapalooza, Acclaim TV, Scriptvamp, and the DreamAgo Screenwriters workshop in the Swiss Alps. His TV pilots have been semifinalists at Warner Bros, Nickelodeon and the Sundance Episodic Lab.

Luke has served as the Producing Artistic Director of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera (one of the largest musical theatres in America) and the Struthers Library Theatre (an historic opera house in Northwestern Pennsylvania). He has assistant directed six Broadway plays, including "The Circle" starring Sir Rex Harrison, "Light Up the Sky" with Peter Falk, "Grind" starring Ben Vereen (directed by Harold Prince) and has directed and produced Off-Broadway and at regional theatres throughout the country and abroad.

He has served on the Advisory Board of the William Inge Theatre Festival for the past 20 years, where he has worked with such writers as Terrence McNally, David Henry Hwang, Christopher Durang, Marsha Norman, Stephen Sondheim, Sheldon Harnick, A.R. Gurney, Neil Simon, Harvey Schmidt, Joe DiPietro, Samuel Hunter and Tina Howe, among others. He is also the recipient of the Jerome Lawrence Award for his body of work and service to the theatre community.

Mr. Yankee has taught and guest directed extensively at colleges, universities and conservatories throughout the country. A graduate of New York University, Luke also studied at the Juilliard School of Drama, Circle in the Square and Northwestern. He recently completed his MFA in Writing for the Performing Arts from University of California, Riverside. Currently, Luke is an adjunct faculty member at California State University, Fullerton (where he teaches playwriting, theatre criticism and script analysis) as well as Chapman University and El Camino College. He is currently writing the textbook, "The Art of Writing for the Theatre: An Introduction to Playwriting, Script Analysis and Criticism". It will be published by Bloomsbury Press in the fall of 2021.

His website is www.lukeyankee.com.

Plays

  • Marilyn, Mom & Me
    In 1956, when Marilyn Monroe was cast as the lead in the film "Bus Stop", she was the biggest star in the world. She had taken the previous year off to study with Lee Strasberg and had become the poster child for “method” acting. The tough, no-nonsense, Broadway character actress Eileen Heckart was cast as her best friend in the movie. As a part of her newly discovered style of acting, Marilyn was...
    In 1956, when Marilyn Monroe was cast as the lead in the film "Bus Stop", she was the biggest star in the world. She had taken the previous year off to study with Lee Strasberg and had become the poster child for “method” acting. The tough, no-nonsense, Broadway character actress Eileen Heckart was cast as her best friend in the movie. As a part of her newly discovered style of acting, Marilyn was determined to make Heckart her best friend – both on-screen and off. Reluctantly, Heckart went along with it for the sake of the film and found herself emotionally entrenched in the life of Marilyn Monroe. For all outward appearances, Marilyn had it all. And yet, more than anything, she yearned to have what Heckart took for granted: a stable marriage, two kids and a respected Broadway career.

    Forty-five years later, Heckart’s middle-aged gay son, Luke, is trying to unravel his mother’s relationship with Monroe in order to better understand his own path with this highly critical, caustic, yet loving woman. Why did his mother burst into tears every time someone mentioned Marilyn’s name? Clearly, she’d had a deep impact on Heckart. If Luke could get his Mom to open up about Monroe, maybe it would make her a more sympathetic mother – or at least help him to connect with her on another level.

    This deeply personal comic drama explores a side of Marilyn Monroe no one has ever seen before by focusing on her craft as an actress as well as her friendship with another woman. It also shows a caring, yet highly complex mother/son relationship explored through the lens of one of the greatest film stars the world has ever known. The play utilizes the chaotic world of movie-making in 1950’s Hollywood to uncover universal truths about love, acceptance and what it really means to feel loved and wanted.
  • Confessions of a Star Maker
    Hollywood, 1958. The glamour capitol of the world. Lunch at The Brown Derby, cocktails at The Trocadero, dinner at Ciro’s. Hedda, Marlon, Natalie and Rock rule the world. One of the players in this arena is Nick Ralston, a hustler in every sense of the word. Nick, a closeted gay man, is an up and coming agent who will stop at nothing to promote his clients and maintain the appearance of an extravagant lifestyle...
    Hollywood, 1958. The glamour capitol of the world. Lunch at The Brown Derby, cocktails at The Trocadero, dinner at Ciro’s. Hedda, Marlon, Natalie and Rock rule the world. One of the players in this arena is Nick Ralston, a hustler in every sense of the word. Nick, a closeted gay man, is an up and coming agent who will stop at nothing to promote his clients and maintain the appearance of an extravagant lifestyle – whether that means charm, extortion, sexual favors, blackmail or selling out to the highest bidder.
    Into this world walks Jamie and George, two handsome, young men in search of an agent. Even though this is a world where sexuality is highly repressed (at least on the surface), these two guys flaunt their many attributes in front of Nick, who invites them to a pool party with some other members of his “stable of regulars”. The boys are so hungry for success in Tinsel Town, they’ll do whatever it takes.

    Nick is in hot pursuit of a new client, Stephanie Fletcher, a former child star now trying to be taken seriously as an adult actress. Stephanie and her overprotective mother aren’t interested in a second-rate agent like Nick, until he promises Stephanie a screen test for the hottest director in town, who is doing a rebellious teen movie called Hell on Wheels. Of course, the only way Nick can actually get Stephanie seen for this role is by threatening to blackmail the director with compromising pictures of him with an underage girl. Nick doesn’t like to lose.

    Nick sees real star quality in Jamie. He wants to remodel him as the next beefcake matinee idol...but only if he dumps his boyfriend, George. He is too concerned about the Hollywood image factory to settle for anything less. Meanwhile, Stephanie’s egocentric stage mother will stop at nothing to keep her little girl from growing up. She knows the squeaky-clean image is her meal ticket. The public may turn on her as a “bad girl.” She employs every kind of psychological abuse a parent can use on a child...until it nearly kills Stephanie.

    Add into this cocktail shaker of depravity and comprises Nick’s “old world” Greek mother who wants nothing but for her son to settle down and get married, producers and publicists who are trying to keep their clients’ dirty little secrets out of the papers and a world ripped from the tabloids and you have the glitz and glamour of the golden age of Hollywood that is "Confessions of a Star Maker".
  • The Jesus Hickey
    “THE JESUS HICKEY”
    a new comedy
    by Luke Yankee
    (Four men, two women, one unit set)

    Winner of the TRU Voices Award and the Joel and Phyllis Ehrlich Award, given for “a socially relevant, commercially viable new work of theatre.”

    THE JESUS HICKEY is a modern day fable about the seduction of celebrity funneled through the window of religious fanaticism. Funny,...
    “THE JESUS HICKEY”
    a new comedy
    by Luke Yankee
    (Four men, two women, one unit set)

    Winner of the TRU Voices Award and the Joel and Phyllis Ehrlich Award, given for “a socially relevant, commercially viable new work of theatre.”

    THE JESUS HICKEY is a modern day fable about the seduction of celebrity funneled through the window of religious fanaticism. Funny, bawdy, outrageous and touching, the dialogue crackles with wit as this thought- provoking comedy heartily entertains. Imagine JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK performed by The Second City or THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE re-interpreted by Mel Brooks.

    The play takes place in the industrial, portside town of Sligo, Ireland. Agnes Flynn is an innocent, small-town Irish girl who dreams of stardom. She has visions of moving to Hollywood and changing her name to Genevieve. Agnes has been raised by Grandmaire, her outspoken, deliciously coarse grandmother and Sean, her humorless, hard-drinking father who has turned to the bottle since the death of his wife. “Why would ya want to change your name to Genevieve?” Grandmaire asks. “Half the people I know couldn’t pronounce it. Besides, it sounds like ya got gas.” Her grandmother is much more concerned about the company Agnes is keeping and that she stays away from boys and the embankment, the local make-out pit. “I’d had three kids by the time I was nineteen,” she warns, “all because o’ that feckin’ embankment!” In particular, Grandmaire wants Agnes to stay away from the young man she likes, Seamus O’Malley. Seamus’ father once jilted Grandmaire and she cannot forgive anyone in the family.

    Sean has been unemployed for many months now and is getting angry and scared, not to mention embarrassed to be living off his mother’s charity. He tells Agnes that if things don’t change, she is going to have to quit school and become a charwoman. Depressed, Agnes goes for a walk and runs into the infamous Seamus O’Malley, who offers to cheer her up and takes her to the embankment. Agnes is nervous and anxious as she sees the young couples around her in various states of sexual exploration. In an attempt to put her at ease, Seamus starts talking about vampire movies. The two begin role-playing Dracula and the fair damsel as Seamus plants a huge hickey on Agnes’ neck. Horrified, she runs home in distress.

    The next morning, Agnes tries in vain to hide the hickey from her father, who discovers it and explodes in anger. “I swear, if you’re knocked up,” Sean screams, “I’ll throw you out on your arse!” Grandmaire comforts Agnes and tries to put some make-up on her love bite. As she does, she realizes a face in it...the face of Jesus! She rushes Agnes to see Father Boyle, the befuddled, local priest, who is skeptical at first and unwilling to even look at Agnes’ neck. Ultimately, he cannot deny it and asks if Agnes has any special gifts as a result of being blessed by The Jesus Hickey. Grandmaire touches Agnes’ neck in order to heal her failing eyesight and begins reading the fine print in the bible at breakneck speed. Father Boyle touches Agnes’ hickey to heal his bad back and begins break dancing around the church. Still, Agnes is mistrustful of her new gifts and doesn’t want to be treated like a freak. Father Boyle agrees to stay silent until he gets counsel from the bishop.

    An hour later, when Agnes arrives at home, Sean is there with Paddy Martin, one of his co-workers, whose beloved Maggie is about to die. Paddy has heard of Agnes’ powers from the loose-lipped Father Boyle and comes for a miracle. Maggie is healed in a matter of moments and Sean sees a business opportunity. “You’re the feckin’ fatted calf!” he proclaims, and names himself Agnes’ manager. In an attempt to capture one of her own dreams, Agnes agrees to play along if she can now be called Genevieve. Sean replies, “I’ll call you Elizabeth feckin’ Taylor as long as you make five quid every time some stupid bugger touches your neck!”

    Sean becomes the ultimate huckster and people are soon paying five pounds and up to view The Jesus Hickey and to be healed by Agnes (who is now called Genevieve). He has convinced people that the love bite was given to his daughter by a mysterious stranger with a beard, a long robe and sandals. The hickey never goes away and in the next six months, Agnes becomes an international celebrity. Sean is spending the money as fast as they make it. Just to be safe, Sean puts Seamus O’Malley on the payroll to keep his mouth shut. Seamus just wants to date Agnes, but Sean won’t let him near her. Sean says, “Imagine if the public knew she’d been makin’ out with the likes of you rather than Jesus himself. My livelihood would be in the crapper!”

    Agnes enters in satin robes (open at the neck, of course), escorted by Grandmaire in high heels and a Chanel suit. Sean has his daughter booked on numerous appearances and healings every day to the point where she is exhausted and burned out. Grandmaire shares the big news that an American television producer wants to meet with them in a few days to discuss starring Agnes/Genevieve in her own reality show. Agnes says she is not enjoying this and wants to stop. Sean’s temper flares as he tells her she cannot quit – she’s got a family to support and a public to think of. He agrees to lighten up on the schedule once the American deal is set. Paddy martin enters with the sad news that his beloved Maggie has died. Agnes is devastated by the news and questions the validity of her gifts. “What’s the point if I can’t help people out o’ their misery?” she asks.
    Two days later, on the morning of the meeting with the Americans, Agnes wakes up to discover the hickey is gone. Sean goes into a panic. He sends Grandmaire to find Seamus O’Malley, who must give her another hickey immediately. “It doesn’t have to be Jesus,” he says. “You can be creative. How about the Virgin Mary on her thigh or The Last Supper on her buttocks?” Seamus reluctantly agrees to try and Agnes says, “No. It’s over.” Still, Agnes and Seamus have had a chance to re-kindle their feelings for one another and agree to start dating as she returns to a normal life.

    The miracle has ended ...or has it? Agnes and Grandmaire have their own secrets and a different definition of happiness than Sean. As Agnes prepares to meet Seamus at the embankment later that night, Grandmaire calls to her. “Agnes – for Chrissake, wear a feckin’ turtleneck!”

    Luke Yankee is a Los Angeles based writer, director, producer and actor. He is the author of JUST OUTSIDE THE SPOTLIGHT: GROWING UP WITH EILEEN HECKART (Random House Books, 2006). His first play, A PLACE AT FOREST LAWN (co-written with James Bontempo) has been produced at a number of regional theatres and is published by Dramatists Play Service. His one-man show, DIVA DISH! has been performed at regional theatres throughout the U.S. and abroad. The Los Angeles premiere of THE JESUS HICKEY starred TV and film veteran Harry Hamlin as Sean Flynn.

    For more information, contact:
    www.thejesushickey.com