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 ROLE MODELS
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
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
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?
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