Esther K. Chae

Assistant Professor of Acting


Esther K. Chae is an award-winning actor, published playwright, Korea-Hollywood consultant and professor in acting. Her work has been covered by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Hollywood Reporter. Her life in Hollywood was the subject of a Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) documentary.

Chae’s acting roles include Soul (Disney Pixar/Academy Award For Best Animation 2020), Over The Moon (Netflix), NCIS, Law and Order, The West Wing, 24, The Shield, S.W.A.T., Guidance (Hulu) and numerous national commercials; her stage credits include Yale Repertory Theater, La Mama, Mark Taper Forum/Kirk Douglas Theater, East West Players, Harvard/A.R.T., Alexandrinsky Theater (Russia).  

As a published playwright, Chae created and performed So the Arrow Flies, her internationally acclaimed solo performance. It is about an alleged North Korean spy and the FBI agent who interrogates her and “explores nothing less than the identity of our world today,” quoted from the preface written by Tony award-winning David Henry Hwang. She performed it around the world, on stages such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), Cherry Lane Theater (NYC), David Henry Hwang Theater (LA), October Nights Theater Festival (Italy), Dongkuk Art Theater (Korea) and also on the TED stage. So the Arrow Flies is the first of its kind to be published both in English and Korean by NoPassport Press (US) and by Dong-in Press (South Korea). 

During the two decades working as a professional multi-hyphenate artist, she has taught and mentored students from diverse backgrounds in a variety of domestic and international academic institutions — from Abuja, Nigeria, to Seoul, Korea. Currently at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, she teaches Intermediate Acting, Physical Theatre, Movement for Actors, Improv for Engineers (Viterbi School of Engineering) and Using Communication to Facilitate Organizational Change (Rossier School of Education). Previously, she taught Advanced Acting for Film & TV at Emerson College (LA) and Presentation Skills for Business at Yonsei University (Seoul).

Chae is also an inaugural TED Fellow and has presented her talks at conferences such as TED, TEDx events, World Women’s Forum, Arts Council of Korea and numerous other conferences. Her original and humorous TEDx talk “WIBLDD: What If Bruce Lee Didn’t Die” where she converses with a 75-year-old Master Bruce Lee who never died, presents research material on #HollywoodSoWhite, the industry’s historical practices in Yellowface, issues in casting, and data related to Asian American misrepresentation and lack of representation in the media and arts.

During the global challenges of the recent few years, Chae had the unique opportunity to develop and direct a live VR performance. She directed a scene from her play Ae-ri in Otherland, where Western and Eastern languages and philosophies collide. In this particular scene, Ae-ri (who keeps getting misidentified as Alice) meets Humpty Dumpty, a “languish eggspert,” and the two theatrically battle in linguistic and cultural idioms in English, Korean and Chinese characters. This performance, presented by a bi-cultural and bi-lingual ensemble, was attended by a live global audience using VR headsets, app from smart phones or tablets, and YouTube live streaming. A short excerpt of this multi-camera VR performance, using various technologies, can be viewed here.

Chae graduated from the Yale School of Drama (MFA in Acting), the University of Michigan (MA in Theater Studies), Korea University (BA French Literature). She has been recognized with the Martin Luther King Jr./Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship (University of Michigan), Asian Pacific Islander American Trailblazer Award (NYS Governor Patterson) and Korean Wave (Hallryu) Asia Star Award.

An avid explorer, she has summited Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), trekked the Himalayan Mountains (India) and Machu Picchu (Peru). 

Learn more at, or on IMDb. Teaching resume here


MFA in Acting, Yale School of Drama
MA in Theater Studies, University of Michigan
BA in French Literature, Korea University