Born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Issaquah, Washington, Brian Yorkey was guided by a robust education in the arts as a child and an adolescent. In fourth grade, his teacher, Mrs. Rathlind, supported his burgeoning writing ability and encouraged him to put on original mystery plays in class. One of Yorkey’s “proudest moments” was when he won a drama medal his senior year. It can be said that Yorkey’s exposure to the arts at an early age contributed to the important lyricist we know today.
He graduated from Columbia University in 1993. While Yorkey was affiliated with Village Theatre in Issaquah, he began as a KidStage Company, a program that teaches teens to write, direct, and perform their own musicals. Yorkey’s frequent collaborator, Tom Kitt, joined him in assisting with the score to the 2008 Company Original, In Your Eyes.
During Yorkey’s time as Village Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director, he developed a new works program, Village Originals. The Village Originals program develops approximately ten new musicals each season, and Yorkey is credited with the development of over 50 new musicals during his time at Village Theatre.
In 1996, he began working in collaboration with Tom Kitt on Feeling Electric (the original title of Next to Normal). Yorkey was inspired by a news story about a woman receiving Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). He observed that mostly male psychiatrists were prescribing this course of treatment to mostly female patients, and he wanted to explore this path by way of a new musical. Over the 10 year process of creating the show now titled Next to Normal, Kitt and Yorkey formed a last partnership, and they are still writing new work together today. In 2021, they collaborated again on a musical adaptation of the film The Visitor.
Yorkey also works as a screenplay writer and adapts novels for film and television. Most recently, he adapted “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix, and he signed an additional deal with Netflix to start the “Echoes” limited series and adapt Neal Shusterman’s book Game Changer into a series.