Celebrating AAPI Joy: Meet Margaret Lee
Asian-American, Hawaii-born and raised.
Moxie: Hi Maggie! First off, what do you consider yourself within the arts community (I.e. actor, director, producer, choreographer, multi-hyphenate artist, etc.)?
Margaret Lee: Director, sometimes movement director and intimacy coordinator.
Moxie: How would you say that does your identity inform your work as an artist? ML: I often feel a strong disconnect between my cultural upbringing in Hawaii, my Chinese heritage, and my American nationality. In dealing with all those different facets and trying to reconcile them within me, questions of interconnectedness and internal vs external acceptance inherently bubble up. Luckily, those themes are very common in the new pieces that I get to work on and it's fulfilling to examine those topics within the lens of a piece and with new collaborators. Moxie: Tell us a bit about your arts background - what got you interested in pursuing a career in the arts, what has your journey been getting to NYC, etc.?
ML: I started off as a violinist and as a ballet dancer. I didn't touch anything theatre-related until I was 17 and off to college. Even then, I majored in engineering, and after I graduated in Chicago, I wove my way through scenic engineering to production management to arts administration and finally to directing, which is where I feel most at home. I spent some time in DC and San Diego before finally pulling the plug and moving to New York in 2018! Moxie: Who are your arts heroes/who do you look up to in your career?
ML: There's a new wave of artistic directors that are re-conceptualizing regional theatre. I was at Long Wharf during Jacob Padron's inaugural season and it was inspiring to see him lead with such consciousness and concern for the entire community. In terms of directing, I think Marianne Elliott's work is fantastically comprehensive - the level of detail work in exploring the imaginative concepts in both War Horse and Curious Incident is something that I aspire to.
Moxie: Did you have a mentor along the way, or someone who guided you in your career path, and if so, what was that like? ML: I've been fortunate to assist some awesome directors who are extremely mindful and collaborative with their assistants/associates. David Mendizabal and Ellie Heyman have both been a joy to work with and I adore them and their support in my career. Also, The Drama League is an incredible resource for directors and they're not bluffing when they say they're a lifelong support system for their fellowship recipients - I always light up whenever I get an email from someone at the Drama League.
Moxie: Where do you find joy in your craft - what brings you hope and elation in the arts, especially in these times?
ML: This particular round of the Moxie Virtual Commission has brought an immense amount of joy into my life. It's been a privilege to investigate a piece that so deeply connects me to my own cultural identity and I've loved working with Jess, who has truly said 'Hold my beer' to the Zoom theatre format and created something that bridges film and theatre beautifully.
Moxie: What does the word "representation" mean to you as an artist? ML: Genuine representation happens when artists tell the stories they want, on the terms they want. You can feel the true beating heart come through in those magical instances. Moxie: What sort of stories do you want to see next on stage?
ML: Literally on stage? Like a physical stage? A giant ensemble show with unabashed debauchery. I've missed a big ensemble during the pandemic and I feel like the overtone of caution has permeated all creative work in the past year. I'm craving art that is maximalist and unapologetic and dogged in examining all the hard truths we've learned about ourselves since the world shut down.
Want to keep up with everything Margaret Lee? Check out her Instagram at @margareadyornot