In the Portal between Diana Oh and Kristine Haruna Lee


We took a moment to sit down with Diana Oh as she comes to the end of her Infinite Love Party at the Starr, and Kristine Haruna Lee, who is just beginning her process for our upcoming main stage production of Suicide Forest. Two artists at either end of a portal discuss their intentions and hopes, lessons learned, challenges ahead, and unexpected connections.

Diana, as ILP comes to an end, can you talk a bit about what your intentions were for this piece?

Diana: My intention was to surround myself with a certain group of collaborators, so that I truly never felt at any point that I had to cater to anybody except to my own wholeness. To pair up with a space like the Starr that is also an equal collaborator, felt like everyone’s core values were really aligned. There was this ease because we were all on the same page going off into the hills for the hike. It allows for the work to live in the body and in the heart. I think we have that in common, Kristine. I trust your core values, I trust the spaces you make, and I trust that you trust mine as well. There’s this intentionality that you and I both have, in the language about the work and who’s invited in. I think we understand the power of an invitation and how that can shape who is in the room.

What has surprised you over the past month?

Diana: We had a heckler one night, and Kevin (Hourigan, co-creative director) bounced him wearing a dress and a pink bra, and I was texting him being like, “I love that one of the legacies of this party is that the first time you ever bounced somebody you were wearing a dress!” But the thing that has surprised me the most is everyone’s generosity across the board— the Bushwick Starr staff, collaborators, even my own— and the people coming into the space for the party have been so generous with each other. I also learned about the importance of boundaries to actually be the thing that unlocks an artist into true channeling and true portal opening. It’s like here are the things I need, and here are the things my body needs to feel taken care of so that I can take care of the room.

Kristine, as you enter the beginning of the Suicide Forest production process, how are you receiving the space?

Kristine: I was so lucky to be at the party last week. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy and delight being in the space that you created. You were just talking about portals and openings, and that is a pretty big theme in Suicide Forest. I feel like the second part of the play could very well, like maybe after a century, be The Infinite Love Party space. I’m so grateful to be starting a difficult process knowing that this is the energy that the play ultimately wants to get to. The material is hard. We’re rubbing up against some hard boundaries and hard edges of ourselves— of our Japanese-American identity, my own identity, sexual identity— and by the end of the play, crawling for life through a portal into a more light and liberated space. So in some way there’s a connection that doesn’t seem crazy to me at all. Like ILP could be the post-Suicide Forest event.

Hmm, future double-party…

Diana: 10 years later—

Kristine: Everyone has to crawl through the portal—

Diana: That would be so dope! It feels so good to share this— like one can hear that and it doesn’t feel like colonizing each other’s work, it feels like a sharing of…

Kristine: Birth canals?…

Diana: Yeah totally! It’s so beautiful. Like the goat fabric. I remember when Wednesday (Derrico, ILP Producer) sent that email saying ‘Suicide Forest would like to make a goat out of leftover ILP fabric’ and we were just like, “Yes, give them the goat!”

Kristine: Thank you! I was just thinking how much we need to activate the same kind of care in order to do a totally different show. The vibe of ILP carries through to our collaborative team, and I love the idea of ‘full care’.

Diana: I think you have so much full care in the people you’ve aligned yourself with to make your show— the specificity you have with your actors, all the workshopping you’ve done, all the speaking engagements, potluck party callings, and your own way of making sure that this play really has grippy roots.

When people ask me, “Are you going to be sad when it all ends?” I’m like yeah, I’ll be very emotional, but I’m so happy that it’s going to be another freaky Asian coming into the Starr for the next show. It feels so good to be like, “Blessings, blessings, come get yours”, rather than someone coming to stamp out your fire and hide the ashes of the energy left in the space. It allows for more generosity.

Kristine: “Yes! Passing the torch.”

Photo of Diana Oh by Jody Christopherson

Sue Kessler