Ma-Yi Theater Company Will Present Haruna Lee's SUICIDE FOREST at A.R.T./New York's Mezzanine Theater
Since its founding in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has distinguished itself as one of the country's leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today. Building on the recent success of Felix Starro, the first Filipino-American musical Off-Broadway, and the Broadway-bound KPOP, Ma-Yi will continue its 30th anniversary season with an encore engagement of Haruna Lee's critically-acclaimed Suicide Forest. Originally presented by The Bushwick Starr in association with Ma-Yi and directed by Aya Ogawa, Suicide Forest is a bilingual nightmare play excavating the Japanese-American consciousness and its intimate relationship with sex, suicide, and identity. Suicide Forest runs February 25 - March 15 at A.R.T./New York Theatres Mezzanine Theatre (502 West 53rd Street, Manhattan) with an opening night set for March 3.
In 1990's Japan, a teenage girl (Haruna Lee) grapples with her sexuality in a male-defined society as a salaryman desperately tries to escape his masochistic psyche. Both are clawing for their self-worth. When their journeys collide, they expose their darkest desires. Fueled by shame, they confront life and death with the notorious Suicide Forest looming over their imagination.
Performed by a Japanese heritage cast, Suicide Forest breaks through the silence and submissiveness often associated with Japanese and Asian American identity, examining the role of community and the struggles of emotional, psychic and social suicide through the playwright's lived stories. The play branches themes of intergenerational trauma, the psychic journey of the immigrant, the coming-of-age and ownership of one's sexual identity in a hyper-sexualized and male-centered world.
Joining Lee in performance, the cast for Suicide Forest includes Lee's mother, Aoi Lee, along with Ako, Keizo Kaji, Yuki Kawahisa, Eddy Toru Ohno, and Dawn Akemi Saito.
The creative team includes Jian Jung (scenic design), Alice Tavener (costume design), Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (lighting & video design) Fan Zhang (sound design), Jen Goma (original music), and Nina Williams-Teramachi (production stage manager).
Haruna Lee notes, "I've been asked often, 'How will an American audience understand this bilingual Japanese-themed play?' I want to offer that there is no doubt that this is an 'American' play. Its only mission has been to reflect truthfully my American immigrant experience."
Suicide Forest centers the women/trans/non-binary and Asian-diasporic perspective on stage and in process. Ma-Yi Theater Company and the artists involved with Suicide Forest ask writers interested in responding to the play to bring a commitment to examining and dismantling colonization and white supremacy culture.
Performances of Suicide Forest will take place February 25-March 15 at A.R.T./New York Theatres Mezzanine Theatre located at 502 West 53rd Street, Manhattan. Critics are welcome as of February 28 for an opening on Tuesday, March 3. Tickets, priced at $30-$75, can be purchased by visiting ma-yitheatre.org or by calling OvationTix at 866-811-4111.
About the Creative Team
Haruna Lee (Playwright, Performer) [they/them] is a Taiwanese-Japanese-American theater maker whose work is rooted in a liberation-based healing practice while committed to promoting arts activism and emergent strategies through ethical and process-based collaborations. Their play Suicide Forest published by 53rd State Press premiered at the Bushwick Starr and was a New York Times Critic's Pick, hailed as "Vivid, haunted, heart-stingingly tender and explicitly personal." It appeared on New York Magazine's Top 10 shows of 2019. Other plays include plural (love) (New Georges, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab), and Memory Retrograde (The Public's Under the Radar Festival Incoming! Series). Lee is a recipient of the Lotos Foundation Prize for Directing, the New Dramatists Van Lier Fellowship, and has received grants from the Map Fund, Mental Insight Foundation, FCA, NYSCA, and NEA. As a performer, they've worked with Aya Ogawa, Minor Theater, Taylor Mac, David Lang & Rachel Chavkin, Kate Benson & Lee Sunday Evans, Ralph Lee, and Anohni- among others. They've been a member of Interstate 73, the 2019 artEquity cohort, and an affiliated artist with New Georges. They teach at NYU's Experimental Theater Wing. harunalee.com
Aya Ogawa (Director) [she/her] is a Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based playwright, director, performer and translator whose work reflects an international viewpoint and utilizes the stage as a space for exploring cultural identity, displacement and other facets of the immigrant experience. Cumulatively, all aspects of her artistic practice synthesize her work as an artistic and cultural ambassador, building bridges across cultures to create meaningful exchange amongst artists, theaters and audiences both in the U.S. and in Asia. She has written and directed many plays including A Girl of 16, oph3lia (HERE) and Ludic Proxy (The Play Company). Most recently she wrote, directed and performed in The Nosebleed at the Incoming! Series at The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival. She has translated numerous Japanese plays into English including over a dozen plays by Toshiki Okada; many have been published by Samuel French among others and produced in the U.S. and U.K. She is currently a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a Usual Suspect at NYTW, and recently a member of the Devised Theater Working Group at The Public Theater and Artist-in-Residence at BAX. ayaogawa.com
Photo Credit: Maria Baranova