Chicago Artists Workshop Presents: Tom Lee
Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Mililani, Hawai’i, Tom Lee is a director, designer and puppet artist based in New York & Chicago. Mr. Lee began his career at La MaMa Experimental Theater in New York with the encouragement of Ellen Stewart and, later, the St. Ann’s Warehouse Puppet Lab. His original puppet theater work includes Shank’s Mare (La MaMa, International Tours), Hoplite Diary (St. Ann’s, La MaMa), Tomte (Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival), Odysseus and Ajax (La MaMa) and Ko’olau (La MaMa/Hawai’i tour). Mr. Lee directed & designed puppetry for Pinocchio with the House Theater of Chicago, The Scarlet Ibis by Stefan Weisman and David Cote at the Prototype New Opera Festival and for the National Asian American Theatre Company, among others. Mr. Lee collaborated with director Stephen Earnhart on a multimedia staging of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, for which he designed the scenery, puppetry and projected puppet miniatures at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2011 and the Singapore Arts Festival in 2012.
Mr. Lee has performed extensively as a puppeteer, including the Tony Award-winning War Horse at Lincoln Center Theater with puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. He is a principal puppeteer of Cio-Cio-san’s child in the late Anthony Minghella’s production of Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera with puppetry by Blind Summit Theatre. Tom directed the puppetry for the Giants Are Small production of Petrushka with the New York Philharmonic on tour at London’s Barbican Centre and was a puppeteer in Le Grand Macabre at Avery Fisher Hall directed by Doug Fitch and conducted by Alan Gilbert. He has performed in Dan Hurlin’s Obie-award winning puppet work Hiroshima Maiden and Disfarmer, on tour and at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Tom recently performed in Lee Breuer’s epic puppet opera La Divina Caricatura at La MaMa.
Tom’s theater design work includes puppets, projections and sets for Lookingglass Theater, Yoshiko Chuma, Bora Yoon, Tom O’Horgan, Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre, Paper Canoe Company, The Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Christopher Williams, The Swedish Marionette Cottage, The Stonington Opera House, Lone Wolf Tribe and Ellen Stewart, among others. In 2013, he designed the Korean pop musical The Lost Garden, directed by June-Young Soh and premiered at the Shanghai Mercedes Benz Arena in China.
In 2005, supported by the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Designers, Tom spent two months studying traditional and contemporary puppetry throughout Japan. He studied with Koryu Nishikawa V, headmaster of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyō (cart puppet theatre company) with whom he has maintained an ongoing creative relationship. Tom Lee and Koryu Nishikawa V developed Shank’s Mare, a collaborative puppet theatre work using the kuruma ningyō style. Mr. Lee’s work has received support from The Jim Henson Foundation, The Japan Foundation NY, The TCG/Andrew W. Mellon In the Lab Program, The TCG/ITI Travel Grant Program, The Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Japan Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, The Puppet Lab at St. Ann’s Warehouse and artist residences at High Concept Labs at Mana Contemporary Chicago, Sarah Lawrence College, The Rhodophi International Theater Laboratory (Bulgaria), The Ringling Museum of Art, The Jim Henson Carriage House and Hachioji Kuruma Ningyō.
Tom was a guest faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College for ten years and was co-director of the St. Ann’s Puppet Lab from 2009-2011. Eileen Blumenthal, author of Puppetry: A World History, wrote of Hoplite Diary, “An extraordinary piece of theater–huge in scope and filled with exquisite detail and emotion. Tom Lee is an exciting new talent.”