kristine haruna lee

Kristine Haruna Lee is a Taiwanese-Japanese-American theater maker whose work is rooted in a liberation-based healing practice. Their plays are often portals into personal and collective stories navigating transcultural experiences, memory, and consciousness, and the conflicts that arise when dealing with the simultaneity of contradicting selfhood- often expressed as pluralities or fragmentations of racialized, gendered, and sexual identities and desires. With her theater company harunalee, she utilizes handmade and craft objects to create visually stunning and visceral performances that meditate on the more disruptive bodies of thought that sit within one's psychic landscape, while promoting arts activism and emergent strategies for the theater through ethical and process-based collaborations.

Since 2010, Lee has created six original works with harunalee, and two standalone works. Suicide Forest, hailed by the New York Times as "Vivid, haunted, heart-stingingly tender and explicitly personal...A wild ride of a production" (NYT Critic’s Pick) directed by Aya Ogawa, is an investigation of how Japanese suicide has symbolically permeated the playwright's transcultural and social identities, and received a world premiere at The Bushwick Starr in 2019, with an Off-Broadway remount slated for 2020 with Ma-Yi Theater Company. plural (love), a collaboration between Lee, Jen Goma, and Morgan Green, is an auto-theoretical performance installation that flirts with the boundaries of desire, power, and responsibility, building an environment that feels akin to stepping into a soft BDSM roleplay. It has been developed by New Georges (2016-2017) and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab (2017-2019) and will have its world premiere with New Georges in the near future. Memory Retrograde, an exploration of one couple’s past-life regressions through vast expanses of generations and landscapes revealing how memory and trauma is racialized, gendered, and fallible over time, was developed at Brooklyn Arts Exchange (2015-2017), Ars Nova Maker’s Lab (2017), and was produced by harunalee as part of The Public’s Under The Radar Festival Incoming! Series (2018). With to the left of the pantry and under the sugar shack, harunalee created an immersive and visual installation-based piece inspired by The Art of Memory by Francis Yates and the concept of the Memory Palace, which showcased 40+ artists and scientists who presented new works inspired by individual memories crowd sourced by the company, and had its world premiere at La MaMa Club (2016). War Lesbian, described as “Moving and revelatory” by Stage Buddy, is a queer experimental play with music based on Inuit mythology and F.T. Martinelli’s Futurist Manifesto, which had its world premiere at Dixon Place as part of the Mondo Cane! Commission & Residency (2014 Time Out NY LGBT Critic’s Pick).

Lee has received foundational support from The Map Fund for Suicide Forest, an NEA Grant, NYSCA Grant, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, The Mental Insight Foundation, LMCC, and Indie Theater Fund. She is a recipient of the Lotos Foundation Prize for Directing, a New Dramatist Van Lier Fellowship, and was a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, The Public’s Devised Theater Working Group, P73 Interstate 73 Writer’s Group, and held residencies and commissions with Ars Nova Maker’s Lab, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist-in-Residence, Dixon Place Mondo Cane! Commission & Residency, and the Bushwick Starr Propeller Project Series. She has also received development opportunities with Drop Forge and Tool, Space on Ryder Farm, Little Theater, Prelude Festival, York College, Food For Thought/Danspace, Target Margin Lab Series, and Asian American Writer’s Workshop. Her work is published by 53rd State Press, including Suicide Forest and writings in Occasional No. 2.

As a performer, Lee has worked with Mac Wellman on The Offending Gesture, with David Lang & Rachel Chavkin on Little Match Girl Passion at Met Breur, Cesar Alvarez’s Futurity (Lortel Award 2016), Great Lakes with Kate Benson & Lee Sunday Evans (Obie Winner 2015), Andrea Geyer’s 2012 Whitney Biennial Comrades of Time, Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge (Obie Winner 2010), NAATCO, Minor Theater, The Drunkard’s Wife, Ralph Lee and the Mettawee River Theater Co., and Anohni- among others. Lee currently teaches playwriting and performance at NYU Experimental Theater Wing, and has taught at Playwrights Horizons Theater School, PACE University, York College, and Abrons Arts Center. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College for Playwriting where she studied with Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theater Wing.

Artist Statement

Through my plays, I have been developing a poetics that gives voice to and examines themes and ideas I’ve been drawn to all my life; these themes often take form in a collision of images that extend towards the mythic- of dreams and riddles that perplex and bring into question fragmented experiences of racialized and gendered identity and memory, life and death as literal and metaphorical events, the expansion of sexuality and one's relationship to plurality and desires, and the intersection of psychic experience in our daily rituals and practice. For me, to write a play or text is to create radical performance landscapes that are inherently visual and pastiche in style, always offering a space for our multiplicities to pan out while formulating my own sense of play-logic. With harunalee, I strive to create theater that honors this multiplicity of identity and the fragmentation of experience, tapping into non-linear form as a way to meditate on the more spectacular, terrifying and disruptive bodies of thought that exist in our deeper spirit and subconscious. 

I am committed to organizing arts activism that engages my theater community with ‘ethical collaborations’, promoting the responsibility of individual artists, institutions, and companies working together to create a more equitable and transparent practice that begins by holding one another accountable. You can find harunalee’s statement on equity and ethical collaborations here.