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Performance artist Kristina Wong wins $550,000 as Doris Duke Artist awardee

Kristina Wong
via New York Theatre Workshop

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    Performance artist extraordinaire Kristina Wong is one of six recipients of the Doris Duke Artist Awards, the largest national prize dedicated exclusively to artists in contemporary dance, jazz and theater.

    Announced on Monday at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, the 2023 class of Doris Duke Artists also includes tap choreographer Ayodele Casel, composer Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, director Charlotte Brathwaite, composer and vocalist Somi Kakoma and choreographer and performer Rosy Simas.


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    A post shared by Kristina Wong (@mskristinawong)

    Marking the 10th-anniversary celebration of the annual event, the Doris Duke Foundation announced the doubling of the prize money from $275,000 to $550,000 in recognition of the awardees’ contributions to various fields in performance arts

    In a recent interview with Theatrely, Wong shared her reaction to winning the Doris Duke Artist Award. 

    I was just screaming. Like profanities and then laughing simultaneously. And I was just also like, this can’t be! I was just so stunned. I realized that there was going to be a future.

    I have so many little side hustles to let me do what I do. I am always just hustling to try to keep myself alive and I do feel like the work sometimes suffers because of it. And it was just this moment where I realized I can take a breath and focus on the communities I care so much about. There is now this incredible safety net that just appeared where there’s never been one before.

    You know, my life may end up covered in cat hair and someone won’t find my body until five days later but at least maybe I will have some support and I am so grateful! 

    Wong is currently performing her one-person show, “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord,” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, which will run through March 12. 

    The show, a co-production between Center Theatre Group and East West Players, is based on Wong’s experience with the Auntie Sewing Squad, a group of mostly Asian women that the artist formed to sew masks for people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Wong wrote about the sewing group work in real-time and streamed performances via Zoom during COVID-19 lockdowns, using humor and wit to tackle heavy themes of life, death, class and privilege, as well as the difficulties faced by Black, Native and Asian Americans during the pandemic. 

    The New York Theatre Workshop opened with “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” following the lockdowns in September 2021. The following year, the show was among the finalists for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

    A prolific writer and creator, Wong created the award-winning web series “Radical Cram School” and has appeared on late-night shows on FX and Comedy Central.


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