kristine haruna lee

Kristine Haruna Lee was born in Hong Kong, raised between Tokyo and Seattle, and is now a Brooklyn-based theater maker whose work navigates non-linear playwriting, auto-theoretical performance text, and promoting arts activism and emergent strategies for the theater through ethical and process-based collaborations. Her experimentation with language is often a portrayal of personal and collective experiences operating within cross-cultural memory and consciousness, and the conflicts that arise when dealing with plurality, desires, and fragmentation of racialized, gendered, and sexual identities. 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 deeper, psychic spaces. 

Since 2010, Lee has created six original works with harunalee that have been hailed by the New York Times as, “full of impulses and ideas, and splendid, fractious energy”. 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 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 collected 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). Her play Suicide Forest directed by Aya Ogawa, an investigation of how Japanese suicide has symbolically permeated the playwright's transcultural and social identities, will receive a world premiere at The Bushwick Starr (2019).

Lee is a recipient of the Map Fund Grant, Lotos Foundation Prize for Directing, the New Dramatist Van Lier Fellowship, and was a member of The Public’s Devised Theater Working Group and P73 Interstate 73 Writer’s Group. She has received foundational support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, Mental Insight Foundation, LMCC, and Indie Theater Fund. Lee has also received development opportunities with Drop Forge and Tool, Space on Ryder Farm, Little Theater, Prelude Festival, York College, Food For Thought/Danspace, and Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and has held residencies and commissions with Ars Nova Maker’s Lab, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Dixon Place, and Bushwick Starr Propeller Project Series. She is currently a part of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab with collaborator Jen Goma and is an affiliated artist with New Georges and Wook Taut Majesty. Lee teaches playwriting and performance at NYU Experimental Theater Wing, Playwrights Horizons Theater School, PACE University, York College, and Abrons Arts Center. Her work is published by 53rd State Press, including Suicide Forest and writings in Occasional No. 2. She is committed to organizing arts activism that engages her 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. Lee holds an MFA from Brooklyn College for Playwriting where she studied with Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney, and a 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 and thoughts that exist in our deeper spirit and subconscious.