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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

 

CREATIVE BACKGROUND
Understanding the many factors that contributed to the development of David's creative talents will be explored during this section of our interview. Learning about his creative role models and his beginning days in theater provide invaluable insights in acquiring a better grasp behind his success as an artist.

CREATIVE ROLE MODELS
US ASIANS: Who were your role models that you helped you discover the freedom to effectively create, that provided the foundation(s) on how to shape your career and/or your search to find a "creative center and focus?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Sam Shepard, Philip Kan Gotanda, Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn, Frank Chin, Maxine Hong Kingston, to name a few.

 
Calvin Jung's Responses
 
 
Calvin Jung ("The Challenge")
 
Part 2 of the Interview.
Read Part 1
by clicking
HERE.

What was your purpose behind taking the role?

Money - every actor dreams of getting commercials to pay their bills.

What opportunities did it provide for you?

For me, it provided the opportunity to turn down the really offensive stuff that was out there (pick and choose from the countless examples), it gave a young actor opportunity for "F..K You Money." It also allowed me the adhere to my principal of never taking a job which made you speak with an accent or participating in a derogatory portrayal of an Asian.

What are you views on the type of roles presently offered to Asian Americans

Amazingly, after 30+ years in the business, it's hardly changed. At this time, it's reverting back to the disgusting stereotypes that have been rampant for the past 50 years. The opportunities afforded a Sandra Oh are the exception - not the norm.

What kind of roles that you have taken to break stereotypes?

I am proud to have been in a number of movies that were the best parts written for Asian American actors. At their time, none of the parts were the main lead, they were the 3rd or 4th lead - supporting roles, but none with accents. "The Day After," "The Formula," "The Challenge," "Lethal Weapon 4," RoboCop," numerious TV pilots and episodes I've been cast in were parts not written for an Asian.

I'm more proud of the fact that in New York, I was the first "Cross-Casted" actor at the Phoenix Repertory Company in 1976 on Broadway. The company included Meryl Streep, John Lithgow and Tony Musante were among the many prominent actors in New York at that time. The Phoenix Repertory was considered the finest repertory company in America.

To continue this interview, click HERE
To learn about Calvin Jung, click HERE
To discover the Calgon commerical, click HERE
US ASIANS: With the Asian Pacific American communities constant clamouring for high-profiled role models, what are your thoughts on why prominent and acclaim artists of Asian descent based in the United States such as Yo-Yo Ma, Kent Nagano and yourself are not honoured often by our communities?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Asian Pacific Americans are like any other Americans -- we tend to be more engrossed by pop culture than so-called high art. So although Yo-Yo and Kent are great world-reknowned artists, the average APA (Asian Pacific American) high school kid or businessman is likely to be more familiar with Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, or Lucy Liu. I do think it's a shame that the APA (Asian Pacific American) community tends not to support its own artists until after they're embraced by the mainstream. Where it comes to our own people, why don't we lead, rather than follow behind?

DAYS OF EDUCATION AND LEARNING
US ASIANS: Did attending plays at places such as San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater prompted your attraction of creating a live world which then physically existed in front of me in the theater world - as oppose to the film world?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Absolutely. I found myself attracted to live theatre from the first time I saw a play.

US ASIANS: Recognizing that your political and race consciousness evolved out of your study of third world/Marxist teachings at Stanford where you discovered that all of us may have been affected by certain prejudices in the society without having realized it - what tangible changes do you feel have occurred between the time you were in college and now regarding how the Asian American communities views itself and how the general public views our communities?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Well, there aren't too many Marxists left in the APA (Asian Pacific American) world -- and even fewer Maoists anywhere on the planet! In the current world climate, being a Marxist actually feels rather quaint and charming. When my generation sort of discovered (or perhaps even invented) the paradigm of APA (Asian Pacific American) identity, we were so excited, that we initially sold the idea like a cure-all tonic: THE answer to the riddle of identity, I Am Asian American, Therefore I Am!

In the intervening decades, we've all calmed down a bit, and realized that APA (Asian Pacific American) awareness is only one important piece in the larger puzzle to know oneself. Furthermore, I think APA (Asian Pacific American) ideology was much more fundamentalist back then -- one was "right" or "wrong" about one's consciousness, "real" or "fake." Nowadays, people generally accept that there are multiple perceptions of reality within any given community, and that virtually all are valid.

US ASIANS: Did this period of time created a greater passion/motivation of communicating through your plays what you were learning/observing about your past and roots?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Absolutely. Writing fed my interest in the APA (Asian Pacific American) experience, and the APA (Asian Pacific American) experience fed my need to write.

US ASIANS: Recognition how your interest in Sam Shepard's method of creating an American mythology that creates something larger than simply our present-day, fast-food existence - how did you created your own mythology that created a past for yourself provided you the ability to delve into Chinese and Chinese American history? Did it create a distance or an intimacy that provided the space to indiscriminately explore issues embedded within the depths of the Chinese/Chinese American communities?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: My interest in mythology predates my interest in the theatre. For some unknown reason, I'd been attracted to myths and legends since childhood. Of course, I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment, so there was always a certain amount of mysticism present. Maxine Hong Kingston really became the creative bridge, so to speak, between Sam Shepard and myself. After reading "The Woman Warrior," I began to understand how to apply Sam's methods to my own experience.

US ASIANS: What prompted your intense search of your cultural heritage during the late '70s through the '80s (from relatively narrow early material to wider concerns of race, gender and culture) that went against your comfortable upper middle class/born-again Protestant fundamentalist family's tacit motto - Assimilate?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: The writing itself compelled me to search. When Sam, Maria Irene Fornes, and other teachers at the Padua Playwrights Workshop in 1978 taught me to write from my unconscious, I found APA (Asian Pacific American) stories and issues appearing in my work. This led to both a desire to know more about my heritage, and involvement with budding APA (Asian Pacific American) cultural organizations (such as San Francisco's Asian American Theatre Company) which further motivated my search.

ORIGINS OF YOUR INTEREST IN THEATER
US ASIANS: What prompted your interest in theater (besides your search for authenticity within your search for your culture), since you're remarked that it was not until late in his college career that you began writing plays.

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Actually, I saw my first professional straight plays as a college freshman, and began writing plays that same year. It just took about three years for me to write anything that was any good!

US ASIANS: Through your parents embedding in your life the theater's power to communicate/discuss/debate issues through their exposure to past East West Theater activities and enhanced by your attendance at various Acting Conservatory Theater productions, it provided viable outlets and options to share passions/issues/situations that deeply affect you - hence, becoming a "theater politician." Do you think that this is the greatest usage, priority and/or power of the theater?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: No. It's only a priority for artists who feel the need to write and create such stories. In fact, most playwrights would probably argue that one needs to write from story and situation, not from "issues." I do happen to believe one can write from an issue, but I sometimes run the risk that my work stems too much from my head than my heart.

US ASIANS: Did your days did at Padua Hills Writers Workshop in Southern California, Yale, studying with Sam Shepard/Maria Irene Forties/Murray Mednick, etc. provided the creative foundation to make your art come alive beyond what the rational mind can manipulate?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Yes, as I had just mentioned. (To review his comments, click HERE)

Discover varius aspects of David's creative process 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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