Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spotlight On...Kristine Haruna Lee

photo by Sasha Artyunova
Name: Kristine Haruna Lee

Hometown: Seattle and Tokyo

Education: BFA Experimental Theatre Wing, NYU, MFA Brooklyn College for
Playwriting with Mac Wellman

Select Credits: Futurity (The Connelly); How to Get Into Buildings (The Brick); War Lesbian (Dixon Place); A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes (City Center, 2015 OBIE winner); The Lily’s Revenge (HERE Arts Center, 2010 OBIE winner)

Why theater?: A friend described theater to me in this way, which I deeply agree with: the theater is a necessary space where we are allowed to invent strategy and systems that are wholly different and new from the broken systems of our own social, political or cultural realities. Isn’t that amazing? I think of theater as always a shared space, a spiritual space, an invented space, a liminal space. I like to think of plays as the blueprints that inspire new systems of change.  

Who do you play in The Offending Gesture?: A dog named Jackie

Tell us about The Offending Gesture: The Offending Gesture is like an egg; the yolk is a sweet romance between two dogs. The whites or membrane is the bigger historical framework that points to the political follies of super powers (including Hitler’s Germany and the US) in their attempt towards domination through sweeping political gestures. And the shell is a philosophical question of human nature and behavior understood (and not understood) through the eyes of dogs and mooncats.

What is it like being a part of The Offending Gesture?: It’s an extremely difficult play, and my brain has to sit at the edge of its seat just to remember the intricacy of the words. But totally rewarding at the end of the day.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that is new, hard, experimental, challenging, exploding. I love this kind of stuff, and I think theater is necessarily a conduit for this kind of work. Playwrights I love and are inspired by are Taylor Mac, Young Jean Lee, Julia Jarcho, Trish Harnetiaux, Erin Courtney, Jess Almasy, Cara Scarmack, William Burke, Kate Benson, Clare Barron, and of course Mac Wellman. I also think Berlin is an inspiring city, it’s the only other place I’d consider living other than New York. I walk down the spree and see kids living in camps alongside the grass and they’re all playing music or together, or I enter abandoned buildings that have turned into nightclubs where you can watch cabaret acts in a tiny room, and I wonder if this is what New York looked like a few decades ago.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Not off the top of my head. I guess I’ve strayed from that long ago, in the sense that I’ve never really pursued roles, rather, I’m always pursuing working with people who excite me.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Hmm, don’t have one. But I recently got into Sun Ra and he’s basically a showtune for the cosmos. His song “Astro Black” is one of my favorites

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I want to work with this performer named Hannah Heller, I’ve seen her in a bunch things and I’m dying to write something for her.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I’ve always found questions where I have to relate myself to a movie star limiting, because there’s an unspoken assumption that I should pick an Asian American star, but there aren’t enough Asian American stars in our current Hollywood that comes close to representing who I am, so. Maybe I can play myself in a movie called: “America’s Race Problems: Can It Ever Be Mended or Solved?”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Four Saints by Gertrude Stein

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Erin Markey’s A Ride on the Irish Cream

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I’m watching "Malcom in the Middle" on Netflix. It brings up a wave of nostalgia each time that I can’t let go.

What’s up next?: My theater company harunalee has a new show coming up at La Ma Ma Club in February titled to the left of the pantry and under the sugar shack, an immersive theater experience inspired by the Memory Palace. It’s an exploratory installation, which is a little bit cosmos and a little bit party, carefully designed and built so you can crawl into it at your leisure. Its familiar yet illusory rooms are the loci of fantastical images, contributed by a multitude of invited artists working in various mediums exploring the magic and meaning of memory. Inspired by Francis Yates' seminal text on the occult nature of memory systems during the Renaissance titled "The Art of Memory", we invite you into a mind ancient in design, but contemporary in its contemplations.  We’re currently asking for submission of your memories- dark, haunting, beautiful, orgasmic, terrifying-any kind of memory, which will then be given as a prompt to one of our many stellar guest artists who will transform your memory into a piece of art. If you’d like to submit a memory, you can do so here: http://www.harunalee.com/memory-submission.html

For more on Kristine and harunalee, visit harunalee.com/