Daphne Lei

Find out more about Daphne:

Talks and Conference Papers
Honors and Awards
Multicultural Spring
Dramatic Transformations
Theatre Woks

¡Diversi…Qué?, Dramatic Transformations,
UCI, 2015


Ph.D. Tufts University 
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University

Daphne Lei is internationally recognized for her scholarship on Chinese opera, Asian American theatre, intercultural, diasporic and transnational, and transpacific performance. Her intellectual interest is the contact zone, where conflicts occur and solutions are sought, where hybridity is nurtured and resisted, where borders are crossed and borderlands formed, where identity is challenged and performed. Her research focuses on intercultural exchanges across the Pacific, especially interactions between Asians and Asian Americans and negotiations between Asian and non-Asian cultures.

She is the author of three monographs:

  • Uncrossing the Borders: Performing Chinese in Gendered (Trans)Nationalism (Michigan, 2019) analyzes how national, cultural, and ethnic borders are inevitably gendered and incite violence against women in the name of the nation. The book is an extensive study on Chinese performative border crossings from classical drama, modern political theatre to contemporary alternative performances through the lens of gendered nationalism.


  • Alternative Chinese Opera in the Age of Globalization: Performing Zero (Palgrave, 2011) is a study of “alternative Chinese opera,” contemporary innovative forms of traditional operas on the Pacific Rim (Hong Kong, Taiwan, California).  It provides an in-depth examination of local performances and balances discourse on the local and global, personal and political, national and transnational, tradition and innovation, center and peripheries, home and diaspora in the age of globalization.


  • Operatic China: Staging Chinese Identity Across the Pacific (Palgrave, 2006) is an investigation of Chinese opera and identity performance in multiple geographical and ideological contact zones (San Francisco Chinatown of the Gold Rush era and today, late-Qing political reforms and actors’ rebellions, Asian American theatre and global film market). Chinese opera is a symbol of eternal Chineseness for theatrical and paratheatrical performances by Chinese and non-Chinese in various geopolitical sites


As an editor, her publications include:

  • The Methuen Drama Handbook of Interculturalism and Performance, co-edited with Charlotte McIvor (Bloomsbury, 2020) explores ground-breaking new directions and critical discourse in the field of intercultural theatre and performance; it is one of the first such anthologies with the coverage of global and minoritarian knowledge.


Her advocacy for diversity, equity, and multiculturalism is woven into her interdisciplinary performance work, research, curriculum, and professional service. She is the founder and director of “Multicultural Spring,” a program that promotes multicultural performance since 2007, and the founding director of Theatre Woks, a theatre group that cultivates Asian American talent and promotes diversity. Dramatic Transformations, her multi-year performance research project on diversity of graduate students (2012-2015) has had campus-wide impact and its record can be found in the University Archives at UC Irvine https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8v129j8/  As the former president of American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR, 2015-2018), she initiated multiple programs and projects that promoted diversity and augmented minoritarian and transnational voices, which contributed to the transformation of landscape of theatre and performance studies.

As transnational intellectual, Lei has been invited to give keynote speeches and present research in many countries. As bilingual scholar, she publishes both in English and in Chinese. Her Chinese publication is seen in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

A special toast at the ASTR 60th Anniversary with former presidents,
Minneapolis, 2016 




Professor of Doctoral Studies
Ph.D. Tufts University
Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs - Claire Trevor School of the Arts
Director of UCI Illuminations
(949) 824-9439