Luke Yankee

Luke Yankee

Host for Conversations on Craft

Luke Yankee (yes, it’s his real name), was recently referred to by a prominent, LA casting director as an über-hyphenate.  He is a writer, director, producer, actor, storyteller, teacher and lecturer, having worked extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad. A critically acclaimed author and an award-winning playwright, he has also directed on and off Broadway, run two regional theatres and toured the country with a one-man show.  He served as Producing Artistic Director of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera (one of the largest musical theatres in America) and the Struthers Library theatre, a historic landmark in northwestern Pennsylvania.


His critically acclaimed memoir, Just Outside the Spotlight has been called “one of the most compassionate, illuminating showbiz books ever written” (Michael Musto – The Village Voice). Published by Back Stage Books with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore, the book has garnered rave reviews from coast to coast.


An award-winning playwright, Luke’s latest play, The Jesus Hickey  is the 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.” His first play, A Place At Forest Lawn (co-written with James Bontempo), is the winner of the New Noises Festival Playwrighting Award  and  the  Palm Springs International Playwrighting Competition. It received its first, Equity production at The Arvada Center for the Performing Arts, a 500-seat Equity theatre in Colorado.  Luke has directed the play on both coasts, with casts that have included Frances Sternhagen, Marian Seldes,  and Tony Goldwyn in New York and Betty White, Marion Ross, John Glover, Marcia Cross and Steven Culp in Los Angeles. The play is published by Dramatists Play Service.


Off Broadway, he directed the political comedy, High Infidelity with John Davidson and Morgan Fairchild at the Promenade Theatre and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the York Theatre with Cynthia Nixon. On Broadway, he has worked as an assistant director on Grind starring Ben Vereen (as assistant to Harold Prince), The Circle with Sir Rex Harrision, Light Up the Sky with Peter Falk and New York City Opera's Brigadoon with Tony Roberts.


Luke’s extensive regional theatre directing credits include: Driving Miss Daisy with Eileen Heckart, Nite Club Confidential with Barbara Eden, Private Lives with David Canary, Man of La Mancha with Robert Cuccioli, Love Letters with Ed Asner, Joanna Gleason, Sally Struthers and former California Governor Pete Wilson, David Mamet's Oleanna (Carbonnell Award nomination as Best Director), the 30th anniversary revival of Waiting for Godot at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, and a  bi-lingual tour of Cyrano De Bergerac.


As a director and producer of special events, Luke has worked with Quincy Jones, Stephen Sondheim, Alec Baldwin, Noah Wyle, Annette Bening, Neil Simon, Barry Manilow, Debbie Allen, Dick Clark, Bill Pullman, John Guare, Roma Downey, Patti Austin and August Wilson in theatres ranging from Radio City Music Hall to The Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. 

His stage acting credits include Our Town at the American Shakespesare Theatre with Kate Mulgrew, the U.S. premiere of The Greeks at The Williamstown Theatre Festival with Gwyneth Paltrow and Christopher Reeve, The Dream Watcher with Eva LeGallienne and roles at numerous regional theatres.  His film and television acting credits include The Hiding Place with Julie Harris, Ragtime with Elizabeth McGovern and The Equalizer with Jim Dale. He toured the country for three years with Diva Dish! a one-man show he created about the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood. Critic Rex Reed praised it as  “Touching, hilarious and completely enthralling.”

Luke has taught and guest directed extensively at colleges, universities and conservatories throughout the U.S. and abroad, including five years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Denison, Ohio State, AMDA, the Folkwang Hochschule (in Essen, Germany) and three years on the faculty of Columbia College-Hollywood. For the past ten years, he has been a panelist and guest instructor at the William Inge Theatre Festival, where he has performed with Marybeth Hurt, Holland Taylor and George Grizzard. He is also a member of their Advisory Board.

Luke studied at the Juilliard School of Drama, New York University, Northwestern, Circle in the Square and the Herbert Berghof Studio.

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