Youth for Asian Theater (YFAT) was founded in Summer 2001 by executive director Lauren D. Yee. Lauren noticed that there was a significant lack of opportunities for students in the community to express themselves through writing and acting. She also felt that San Francisco teens also lacked an outlet to deal with the issues surrounding today’s teens and the Asian American experience. Wanting to give herself and other students a chance to explore these fields, she formed YFAT, a small group composed of ragtag student actors that soon developed into the thriving theater organization it is today.
Since its inception, YFAT has grown far beyond all expectations. YFAT’s membership has more than doubled in size and now consists of a core executive board that runs the company. After its first year of performing in the Sunset Rec Center in the heart of the Sunset District, YFAT has moved its performance site to the Herbst Theatre on Van Ness, a notable performing arts space whose extensive history in San Francisco arts reflects the equally historic events of YFAT. For the past four years, YFAT has involved nearly 40 students in theater and entertained and educated nearly 1,000 audience members through its shows.
Although many of YFAT’s members are Asian, they come from a diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds. The goal of YFAT is not to exclude youth but to build ties between different cultures and promote an understanding of Asian heritage and culture.
YFAT also aims to introduce youth to the many aspects of theater, teaching them the skills necessary to create a theater production and be strong leaders in their communities. YFAT wants to give them a safe, fun environment where youth can express themselves fully and introduce the community to theater through the free performances. A large portion of YFAT’s audience members do not frequently attend the theater, and some have never even seen a live theater performance before.
In short, YFAT is an entirely student-run theater group that functions through the sheer efforts of its teen members and serves the community as an outlet to the young voices that would otherwise go unheard.