What's On

How Do I Let You Die?

Michele Lee

Presented in Season 2 2023

World Premiere
Presented by Arts House and Michele Lee
Produced by Bureau of Works

Wednesday 22 – Sunday 26 November
Wed – Sat, 7.30pm
Sun 5pm

90 mins

Post-show Artist Talk
Thu 23 November for all ticket holders   

Audio Description and Tactile Tour 
Fri 24 November, 7.30pm 

Standard $35
Reduced $20
A small transaction fee will be charged per order. 

Suitable for ages 13+ 

How Do I Let You Die? contains themes of death and grief, coarse language and low lighting 

Detailed access information is available to download below
PDF | Word Doc

Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
North Melbourne


Assistance Animal
Audio description
Tactile Tours
Companion Card
Quiet Space Available
Wheelchair Accessible
Visual Rating 50%

A somewhat autobiographical tale of Hmong parents, death and ghosts.   

As Australia careened from deadly bushfires to the beginning of COVID-19, and as Hmong-Australian writer Michele Lee was working on Asian ghost TV shows, she rang her parents for 30 minutes each day.    

Lee wanted to figure out how to talk to them about death: their death, the deaths they’ve endured here and in Laos, the Hmong perspective on death. In asking herself, ‘How do I let my parents die on their terms?’ Lee sought to reconcile vast emotional, cultural and geographical distances.    

How Do I Let You Die? assembles an extraordinary team of Asian-Australian artists to weave together phone calls, Asian ghost tropes, Hmong horror stories, and the simple potency of an adult child coming to terms with a parent’s eventual death.   

As moments of acute and layered crisis bring mortality achingly close, this charming and tender work of theatre offers moments of humour and nuance, and moments of contradiction, to wonder on our approaches to this life and the next.   

Read we are the ghosts, we are the mirrors by Beatrice Rubio-Gabriel, a written response to How Do I Let You Die?

 ‘Lee shows herself to have a keen eye, a wicked sense of humour, and a willingness to take the piss out of herself. It’s a voice that is distinctly Australian, while working simultaneously to complicate just what it means to be a contemporary Australian.’ – The Conversation (on Going Down (2018), Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company)  

‘Michele’s writing is relevant and critical, and it’s art like this that helps to shift things, even a little bit, in the right direction.’ – Plus Ones (on Security (2022), Darebin Speakeasy, Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre)  


About the artists

Writer: Michele Lee
Michele is a Hmong-Australian writer working across stage, audio, live art and screen. Michele’s practice has a deep commitment to complex portrayals of POC people and of women, often using comedy. Credits include Security (Darebin Speakeasy 2022, finalist for the Patrick White Award 2020); Single Ladies (Red Stitch 2021); Broth Bitch (Melb Fringe Festival 2020); House Sisters (Monash Uni 2019); Going Down (Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company 2018, and nominated for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Nick Enright Prize and stage AWGIE); Rice (Queensland Theatre, Griffin Theatre and Hothouse Theatre 2017, won the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and 2018 stage AWGIE, and had its UK premiere 2021); and See How The Leaf People Run (Radio National 2012, and won the radio AWGIE 2013). Michele is a 2022-23 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow. She regularly lectures and presents on her practice, and script assesses and judges.

Director and Dramaturg: Sepideh Kian
Sepideh Kian is a director, actor, theatre maker and dramaturg, working across theatre, film, television and radio. Recent credits include: Black Snow (Goalpost Television), Hydra (Double Water Sign), Joy Ride (Black Eye Films), Jack Irish (ABC TV), Fuck Fabulous (SGL Mardi Gras), Atomic by Amelia Evans (Malthouse Theatre), Anthem (Arts Centre Melbourne/Melbourne Festival), The Appleton Ladies Potato Race (Ensemble Theatre), Bad Mothers(Nine Network) Fefu and her Friends by Maria Irene Fornes (VCA Theatre), Merciless Gods (Little Ones Theatre in conjunction with Griffin Theatre Company and Arts Centre Melbourne – nomination for Best Performer Green Room Awards 2018), Alice Fraser Trilogy (ABC Radio), Evanescence (Amos Gebhardt), The Five Provocations (Black Eye Films), and two new works in development, Maya and Narasimha (Karma Dance), both scheduled for presentation in 2023. 

Performer: Alice Qin
Alice Qin is a Melbourne-based theatre maker, actor and educator. Her interest in lifting voices from undervalued communities into a theatrical context has led her to a lot of work with young people, as well as a lot of powerful Asian Australian femme theatre makers. Alice most recently directed Security by Michele Lee presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy. She was the directing mentor on the Green Room award-winning 落叶归根 (Luò yè guī gēn) Getting Home. As well as directing the first developments of Poona (Next Wave 2021). Her Australian acting credits include The Enlightenment of the Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and the Encounter with the Monkey King, Great Sage Equal of Heaven (Elbow Room 2021), Mad As A Cute Snake (Theatre Works 2019), Atomic (Malthouse Theatre 2018/2019), Little Emperors (Malthouse Theatre 2017). 

Set and Costume Designer: Vanghoua Anthony Vue
Vanghoua Anthony Vue is a Hmong Australian visual artist based in Brisbane and Cairns. In his work, Vue harnesses the frictions and tensions of cultural difference from his transcultural Hmong Australian experience to develop works that offer more inclusive, diverse and hybrid tropes of belonging. These works often include everyday materials, objects, and processes that are based on Vue’s upbringing in Cairns, the resourcefulness of family members, and the influence of Hmong artistic traditions. Such works are playful, recognisable and excessively ornamental, and often include humour and satire to blur the lines and definitions that reinforce Othering. Vue has exhibited in Australia and overseas, including Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art (2022) at QAGOMA and the 6th Singapore Biennale: Every Step in the Right Direction (2019).

Sound Designer and Composition: Elissa Goodrich
Elissa Goodrich (artistic director / composer/ vibraphone) is a composer, percussionist and sound designer. A VCA graduate, Elissa continues to develop her practice and abiding interest in collaborative multi-artform projects across contemporary music idioms, audio-visual installations, contemporary dance and contemporary theatre. Elissa’s sound-art works have featured internationally in: Centre de Cultura Contemporanea Barcelona’s Sound Art Festival (Spain), Soundwaves Festival, Sonorities International Contemporary Music Festival, and International Lightworks Festival (UK), at Radio Papesse & at Sonori Sguardi’s media art festival at the Roman Colosseum (Italy), and in audio-visual collaborations including: with visual artist Gabby O’Connor at Museum of Otago (NZ), & with filmmaker Michael Carmody at Tempo Reale’s Keep An Ear On (Italy).

Lighting Designer: Rachel Lee
Rachel Lee is a lighting designer based in Melbourne and her hometown, Singapore. She works primarily with new writing and is a member of the theatre collective, New Working Group. Recent credits include Hello, World! (Malthouse Theatre), Virtual Intimacy (Asia TOPA), Gender Euphoria (Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras), Single Ladies, Ulster American (Red Stitch Actors' Theatre) She Is Vigilante, Love/Chamberlain (Theatre Works), Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland!, Surge, Lou Wall’s Drag Race, Baby Bi Bi Bi (Melbourne Fringe Festival), The Three Graces (The Anchor), The Honouring, Blood Quantum (YIRRAMBOI Festival), World Problems, Fallen (She Said Theatre), and Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit (Melbourne International Comedy Festival).

Sound Design and Composition Attachment: Rafe Yang
Originally from Portland Oregon, Rafe Yang is an emerging Hmong-Australian composer whose music is strongly influenced by anime music and Japanese composers. To use a DJ term, Rafe’s music tends to make the “beat drop” in that he likes to create a chorus section which highlights the climax of his music. Rafe has an eclectic interest in both electronic and orchestral music and his music can be found on his YouTube channel NULLNAME_. Rafe is a student of the School of Music at the Australian National University, majoring in composition. Rafe's attachment to this project is supported by Friends of the School of Music and Arts ACT.

Production Manager / Stage Manager: Reis Low
Reis Low is an arts manager and maker with a background in theatre and dance. You can find them at Western Edge as Operations Coordinator or at a local Mamak stall. Previous credits include production stage managing Momentum by Women's Circus, production managing Dear Mama, There’s Something Maybe I Should Tell You… by Wit Inc, stage managing Hydra by Double Water Sign and producing Άπειρη Στοργή | Infinite Affection by Luke Macaronas. Some percolating themes in their practice include gathering, dis/comfort, and non-linear time.

Assistant Stage Manager: Celina Mack
Celina is a contemporary theatre-maker and artist working across performance disciplines in Naarm. Celina has worked with a range of companies and collaborators as a stage and production manager, director and collaborative deviser and is the co-founder of STRANGEkit Performance Collective. Their recent projects include; Australian Dance Theatre’s Tracker (Brisbane Festival, 2023), ButohBAR 番狂わせ OUT of ORDER (2023), Western Edge’s Edge Ensembles (2023), Yumi Umiumare’s Buried TeaBowl - OKUNI (2023 - OzAsia Festival & 2022), Under My Tongue (Next Wave, 2023), GUTFUL (APHIDS, 2022), REBEL (Cassandra Fumi, 2022), Daniel Schlusser Ensemble’s Hercules (Arts House, 2022), Looking For Alibrandi (Malthouse, 2022), The Mermaid (La Mama, 2021), Stone Soup Australia camp (2023 & 2022) and UnderEden WALKMAN *Explorers Edition* (2021) and HOLESP@CE (2020) with STRANGEkit Performance Collective. Celina has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Performance Studies from Monash University.

Filmmaker: Ari Tampubolon
Ari Tampubolon is an artist based in Naarm. Ari's practice tracks the legacies of cultural neo-imperialism and its impact on cinema and the consuming body. Drawing from a trans-diasporic perspective, Ari's work manifests in various forms including, filmmaking, writing, installation, and performance art. Ari has shown recent work with Gertrude Contemporary, Immigration Museum, and SEVENTH Gallery. In 2021 Ari was the recipient of the inaugural Diasporas Commissioning series from Multicultural Arts Victoria, and her short film BLEACH is currently in pre-production.

Producer: Bureau of Works
Bureau of Works is an independent producing company founded by Erin Milne. They are focused on creating strategic opportunities for artists; supporting artists in the creation of new work and exploratory form; and developing contexts that foster risk-taking and ambition. They live and work on Boon Wurrung country, on the lands of the Kulin Nation, in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. They’re interested in projects that encompass radical empathy, collaborative teams, good humour and a sense of adventure. They enjoy working closely with artists to realise the environment, resources and partners they need to achieve their best work. They also work with organisations to do the same thing, in different contexts.

Artist statement

I’m not close to my parents. I speak bad Hmong, I live far away, I feel forever my teenage self when I visit my parents and I can’t seem to get out of it. I hear about people who call their parents to tell them big news and tell them the everyday stuff. I don’t do that. For the last 20 years, I’ve lived in Melbourne and my parents are still in Canberra. I visit them, and I always will. But there are many reasons why we’re not close. I wonder too what sort of relationship I’ll go onto have with my son. This work is about being a child of migrant parents, being the child of parents who are getting older and greyer, being a parent now myself, being Asian, being Hmong. This work has ghosts in it, the ones with bad make-up and the ones in our head and the ones we’ve met in real life.

The Hmong began to arrive as refugees in Australia in the 1970s. We had assisted the CIA with covert operations in the Vietnam War. I was the first of my family to be born here, possibly I'm even the first Hmong person born in Australia. There are only 4000 of us here today. Like many diaspora people, I sit in tension with my parents' cultural traditions and this Western context I was raised in, where the dominant attitudes to death are informed by a Judeo-Christian desire for a ‘good death’ and a ‘good life’. In contrast, the Hmong have a different belief system about the porousness between life and death. We have animist beliefs, we rely on shamans for ailments. Spirits are real. Funerals re-unite souls with their original home.  

You could say How Do I Let You Die? is autobiographical. It mostly is. You’ll hear me in the phone-calls and you’ll hear my Mum and Dad. I also appear in as a Ghost Woman in the filmed elements while Alice, the performer, is the proxy for me in the live performance. My doubled self, with its messy edges, with its fear of death and of ghosts, speaks to the destabilised nature of identity for diaspora people. However, this work isn’t meant to promote binaries of 'me vs my parents' or 'East vs West'. I want you to watch this show and sit with moments of contrast and nuance, with the ridiculous stuff, with moments of contradiction. An adult child wonders about the inevitable death of their parents - it's in some ways as simple as this.

- Michele Lee


Writer: Michele Lee
Director and Dramaturg: Sepideh Kian 
Performer: Alice Qin 
Set and Costume Designer: Vanghoua Anthony Vue 
Lighting Designer: Rachel Lee 
Sound Designer and Composition: Elissa Goodrich 
Sound Design and Composition Attachment: Rafe Yang
Filmmaker: Ari Tampubolon
Production Manager / Stage Manager: Reis Low 
Assistant Stage Manager: Celina Mack
Producer: Bureau of Works 
Sound Recorder: Strange World Studios / Justin Macawili

Thanks to the following people, families, places for their help and support in bring this work to life:
Suz Dhouly (of SZN), Jessica Bellamy, Ra Chapman, Eugyeene Teh, Xavier O’Shannessy, Mary Lee, A Minor Place, Coburg Commons, A Minor Place, Pictures and Pages, Altay Gifts, Pots n Pots, Terra Madre Brunswick, Steven Arriagada, Mark Tregonning, Grim-Shea family, Shaffira Gayatri, Agata Weirzbowski, Esme, Ché Stevenson, Jennifer Tran, Margot Storm aka Stormy

Underneath it all:
Mum and Dad
Will Cowan and Yeng Cowan

Supported by The Australia Council for the Arts, The Besen Family Foundation, Creative Victoria, the Sidney Myer Foundation, Arts ACT and Friends of the School of Music.

Image credit: Eugyeene Teh 

Image description: A Hmong-Australian woman is dressed in a black wig and ceremonial Hmong clothes, and she has ghostly white paint on her face. The woman holds a book in her hand and stares at it blankly. Behind the woman is a bookshelf of more books.