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DAVID HENRY HWANG INTERVIEW
It's OK to be Wrong and/or It's OK to be Hwang
Presentations of idiosyncratic history pageants with a sense of humor and musicality
A Creative Soul, Successful Playwright, Screenwriter and Librettist with All the Work He can Handle

 

AUTHENTICITY VS. STEREOTYPES
Within this section of the interview, David will be addressing the various differences between authenticity versus stereotypes. Authenticity is defined in Dictionary.Com as "The quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine." Authentic (in Dictionary.Com) is defined in the following fashion:

Dictionary.Com's definition of "stereotype" is as follows:

 
VIEWS ON STEREOTYPES
 
US ASIANS: With the most common criticism an Asian-American author hears is that his or her work reinforces stereotypes, what guidelines do you utilized that provides you with the confidence that your subject was communicated authentically and true to the subject/issues addressed in the production?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I've said before that one generation's breakthroughs are another's stereotypes. So it's inevitable that we'll be accused of reinforing stereotypes, and, if we're successful, we'll probably create some new ones. All we can do is tell the truth as we experience it.

APPLICATION OF AUTHENTICITY

US ASIANS: How would you evaluate the creators of Miss Saigon, World of Susie Wong and similar productions based on the story being authentic to them - despite opinions that the premise are inaccurate and do you feel that this is exclusively an Asian Pacific American issue?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: In both these cases, I am willing to accept that the creators are well-meaning and creating an authentic vision from their point of view. They have the right to create these works. We have the right to object and critique if they feel inauthentic to us.

US ASIANS: Remembering your words that your constantly changing beliefs presently embraces Oscar Wilde's notion that "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds" (as oppose to people such as Malcolm X or Gandhi) has become more significant to me as the years have gone by, what creative experiments/explorations/adventures do you have in your creative search for authenticity?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think most, if not all, of my work is in some sense a creative experiment/exploration in search of authenticity.

US ASIANS: From your perspective(s) and/or hopes, which one of your plays do you feel provides the means that provides the ability and/or motivation for the audience to have a glimpse of an authentic aspect(s) of Asian/Chinese American culture?

DEFINITION OF AUTHENTICITY  
US ASIANS: Could you elaborate on your definition of authenticity that states that it is a debate over the quest to validate the humanity of various peoples - of all the people in this country? 

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I can't remember if I once said something to this effect. I now feel that there are myriad authenticities. Each artist puts forth a vision that is, hopefully, authentic to him/her, then it is for audiences to decide if the work feels authentic to them.

US ASIANS: What guidelines and/or barometers do you utilize within your writings that confirm that your writings are based on authenticity?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Simply that the work reflects my vision of truth.

 

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I hope all of my plays that deal with Asian/Asian Pacific American subject matters give the audience a glimpse of my own authentic vision.

US ASIANS: How do we promote healthy debate on authenticity and diversity that consists of informed people who are intellectually rigorous?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: We should all express our opinions and views, whether we consider ourselves informed or not. A healthy exchange of views from all sides of the spectrum will itself promote intellectual rigor. Everything is permitted, short of violence.

US ASIANS: Are you still haunted in your search of authenticity of who you are?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Identity remains an open question for me, though I'm probably less "haunted" by it than I used to be.

US ASIANS: What factors help you successfully ride the very fine balance between the perpetuation of stereotypes and the following of the individual's will (creative muse) as artists that are able to do this for a living in 2005?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: As artists, our work is subject to the reactions of others, whether their critiques be creative, socio/political, or personal. We should try to be as truthful as possible, so we understand the reasons for our choices, in order to defend them against inevitable criticism from one quarter or another.

 
 
Sheridan Prasso
If we continue to cling to such stereotypes about Asia, we will pay a steep price for our ignorance (Elizabeth C. Economy - C.V. Starr Senior Fellow)

Our (American) perspectives are misshaped - contorted - by centuries of misunderstandings built on mythologies, fantasies, fairy tales and fears. We in the West see the East (Asia) through distorted eyes, through an Orientalized filter of what I call "Asian Mystique." (Sheridan Prasso - Author of the book "Asian Mystique.")

Read Sheridan Prasso's interview on addressing Asian stereotypes by clicking HERE

ISSUES OF CULTURE

US ASIANS: In one's search to differentiate between Asian/Chinese and Chinese/Asian American culture through plays, films, books, etc. - they often turn into "Orientalia for the Intelligentsia." Does this type of work just confuse the audience (Asian and non-Asian) on what is actually Asian/Chinese, Asian/Chinese American and American?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: There is, in reality, a fair amount of overlap between these three categories, so in some sense that confusion simply reflects the truth.

US ASIANS: How important is it for Asian/Asian American/American audiences to have a defined and accurate vision and/or presupposition of what is Asian/Chinese and Asian/Chinese American?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I feel this distinction is much less important, and in fact, less well-defined, than it was when I was younger. Sansei culture, for instance, was distinctly different from Japanese, as 5th-generation Chinese Americans were distinct from the world of China during the Cultural Revolution. Nowadays, the world is much smaller, American pop culture much more pervasive internationally, and CAs travel back and forth with more regularity.

Culture is a living thing, constantly changing, always incorporating new elements. (David Henry Hwang) Click HERE for more info

US ASIANS: How does one effectively utilized the desire of being authentic within the film/theater/television world to produce great works of art that recognizes that there are many common cultural aspects but unfortunately produces productions such as Ms. Saigon, The World of Susie Wong, FOX TV's Bonzai, Sixteen Candles, Charlie Chan movies, television's Kung Fu, etc.?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Well, none of those works were created by Asians or Asian Pacific Americans.

REPRESENTATIONS

US ASIANS: Do you feel that the official "Asian-American Syndrome: when there's only one who's in the spotlight at a given time, everything we say is expected to represent the entire culture" has much improved in 2005?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think the number of Asian celebrities, who therefore end up serving as "cultural ambassadors," have proliferated in recent years. Interestingly, however, a growing number are Asian nationals rather than Americans per se.

US ASIANS: Do you feel that criticisms of a creative piece of work (i.e. theater, television, films, music, etc.) become inherently more dangerous when they focus on a work of art's content as opposed to the aesthetics?

FRANK CHIN (BATTLE OF WHAT IS REAL)
 
 
US ASIANS: Acknowledging that one of your main critics is Echo Park playwright and novelist Frank Chin (first major Asian American writer to be produced off-Broadway), could define what he considers as "real" Chinese American writing and how you feel it differs from your style of communicating within the written word?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I don't think any of my work contradicts Frank's definitions of "real" Chinese American writing. Frank labels it as "fake" primarily because he didn't write it.

US ASIANS: What literary and visionary qualities do you feel that Amy Tan ("Joy Luck Club"), Maxine Hong Kingston ("The Woman Warrior") and yourself have in common that would prompt Frank Chin to define this group of writers as "fakes?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: The quality which annoys Frank about this group of writers is that our work has been more commercially successful than his.

US ASIANS: What is your definition of "authentic" and/or "real" (in Frank Chin's words) Chinese American writing and what is "fake" - along with your opinion on the differences between your opinion(s) versus Frank Chins?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Frank seems to believe there is one definition of "authentic," his own, and that all others are "fake." He also ostensibly believes that root-culture traditional material needs to be utilized with absolute felicity to the source material, rather like Khomeni objected to Rushdie using Islamic source materials creatively in "The Satanic Verses." The reality is, however, that just as different cultures experience different realities, so do individuals within these cultures. No one has a monopoly on authenticity, not even Frank Chin.

 
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Absolutely not. I think it's a strange American quirk that critics regularly put forth the most devastating criticisms about a work's aesthetics, but as soon as someone begins to critique content, he/she is accused of advocating "censorship."

US ASIANS: It has been stated that without any unique vision, style and/or attitude unique to the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities - as oppose to the Black and Hispanic communities, it will be hard for any artists of Asian descent to achieve tangible success in the U.S.?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: The belief that APA (Asian Pacific American) communities are more culturally and/or experientially diverse than Black or Hispanic communities betrays a gross misunderstanding of these other groups.

ETHNIC ISOLATIONISM

US ASIANS: Acknowledging your beliefs that ethnic isolationism also runs the risk of reinforcing a larger prejudice in society and recognizing that ethnic minorities are defined primarily by their race that leads to the ghettoization of writers, when do you feel that there is a level of authenticity and belief that writers can effectively write about other cultures - such as what has already been happening in the music industry?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think when writers feel comfortable interacting with and living among individuals of other cultures, they will feel comfortable writing about them.

US ASIANS: Previously you had mentioned that class will be more important than race in terms of determining how people are classified in this society and what types of options they have, would you like to elaborate on this issue?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: In the final analysis, race is an artificial construct of our nation and age, whereas class is real -- economic differences between people have always spawned significant consequences.

US ASIANS: Do you feel that in the 21st century that there might be some more danger to this fear of isolationism, compared to the fear of racism - as compared to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Ultimately, assuming that civilization and technology continues on our current path, isolationism will no longer be a rational option.

CRITICAL THINKING

US ASIANS: Your actions and words give great credence that you place a high priority on one's ability to utilize the quality of critical thinking - could you expand on why you feel that is an important characteristic/ability for important/influential artists to have?

 
CULTURAL SYMBOL AND AUTHENTICITY
 
US ASIANS: Could you expand on how you equate Chinese opera as a "cultural symbol?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Quite simply, it's a form which most Chinese, whether they enjoy it or not, recognize as part of their theatrical heritage. Like Shakespeare in the West, it therefore assumes an iconic cultural status.

US ASIANS: Is there any situation, environment, genre, etc. that could represent a "cultural symbol" for the Asian Pacific American communities?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think many of us APA (Asian Pacific American) artists are trying to find/develop one.

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Artists should try to think as critically and rigorously as possible. That said, "critical thinking" may not be every artist's forte. It's perfectly possible for an artist to make a huge contribution to his/her field while also remaining relatively isolated from public life (e.g. Emily Dickinson).

US ASIANS: For those who are interested, what would be your recommendation(s) on how one can nurture and utilize the ability of "critical thinking" to effectively communicate their respective vision/passions?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Engaging in frank exchanges of ideas with individuals who hold different points of view than one's own.

DEBATING ISSUES

US ASIANS: What aspects of your background provided the interest, talent and gifts to attain a level of skills to debate issues since your days on the San Gabriel High School debate team?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I was apparently a very successful high school debater, and this training has ended up serving me well in the public appearance aspects of my current profession.

US ASIANS: Could you share how this debating skill and/or talent provided an invaluable means to carefully investigate the various "points of views" in issues of culture, race, class and/or sex?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: In competitive debate, you learn to argue all sides of an issue, which has probably helped me to write works in which characters of different viewpoints interact with one another.


Answering questions of diversity through his plays and projects have been a
constant presence. Read about his views on diversity by clicking HERE.

Discover David's Viewpoints on the Wide Spectrum of Subjects by Clicking on the Below-Listed Links
AUTHENTICITY
CULTURE
CREATIVE PROCESS
DIVERSITY
MUSIC & MUSICALS

Applications
Authenticity vs. Stereotypes
Definition
Frank Chin Battles
Stereotypes - David's Views

THEATER
1000 Airplanes on the Roof
Chinese Railroad Workers
Dance and the Railroad
Family & Christianity
Family Devotion
FOB
Golden Child & Christianity
Origins of Interest
Rich Relations
Sound of a Voice
Steve Allen's Meeting of Minds
Trying to Find Chinatown

 

 

Critical Thinking
Cultural Symbol
Debating Issues
Ethnic Isolationism
Its Issues
Representations

PERSONAL INFO
2nd Marriage & Its Joys
David on Ismail Merchant
Henry Hwang (Father)
Kathryn Hwang (Wife)
Overview
Parents & Relatives
Parting Words
Personal Facts

SUPPORT
Financial
Needed from APA Artists
From Our Communities

 

Choices
Collaborators

Days of Education & Learning
Dealing with Expectations
Failure's Particular Lessons
Inappropriate Characters
Influences & Inspirations
"Lost Empire" Experience
Pressures with Success
Role Models
Working with Lucia Hwong
Working with Philip Glass
Working with Unsuk Chin

NEW & PAST PROJECTS
Chinese Mafia-type Films
Desired Projects
Hello Suckers
Inspiration of China
Status of Past Projects
Tarzan
Texas Guinan
The Fly
Yellow Face

 

APA Theater Organizations
Blind-Casting
Calvin Jung
Current Status
Daring Films w/Asian Males
Definition of an APA
Ethnic Theater
Life as a Librettist (Ainadamar)
Life as a Role Model
Ms. Saigon Protest
Perceptions
Proteges & Artists
Recognizing APA Artists
State of Asian Women Writers
Welly Yang Learning History

LIFE AS A SCREENWRITER
Across the Nightingale Floor
Experience with Hollywood
Golden Gate & M.Butterfly
Interculturalism & Objective Truth
NBC's Lost Empire
Neal Labute's "Possession"

 

Its Importance
M.Butterfly
Today's APA Communities
Working with Prince

FLOWER DRUM SONG
Anna May Wong
Arabella Hong-Young
Background Research
C.Y. Lee
Creative Choices
Its Importance
Original Version
Remembering Our History

REVIEWS
Yellow Face

       
       
       

 

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