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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

 

DIVERSITY
Remembering your words in a L.A. Times article of your readiness to answer questions from reporters such as "Was it an Asian role? How do you feel about interracial casting?' - David's responses listed below will share his views on diversity that addresses these questions. We'll cover questions such as the current definition of Asian Pacific Americans, Ms. Saigon protest, the state of Asian women writers and his thoughts on being a role model for serious aspiring writers.

WHAT IS THE PRESENT DEFINITION OF AN APA?
fyi: "APA" means Asian Pacific American
US ASIANS: What do you think it will take to motivate people to actually listen with an open mind when it comes to race and culture in this country, instead of battering the other side with our own presuppositions?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Perhaps, a combination of desperation and self-interest. Desperation, because the social fabric of this nation will start to fray without some serious re-evaluations. Self-interest, because getting ahead in the world and doing business will become dependent on dealing with people of radically different backgrounds.

 
Some Unfortunate Media Choices
 

LOST EMPIRE:
Read Jeff Park's article on the many misguided and unfortunate choices made by NBC.

PEARL HARBOR:
Review background information on the film "Pearl Harbor" that illustrates the many fears that the Japanese and Asian American communities had about this film.

ROMEO MUST DIE:
Discover some possible reasons why Jet Li never got to "Kiss the Girl" in this remake of "Romeo and Juliet." Isn't this supposed to be a romance?

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA:
Delve into the many Asian female stereotypes existing in this upcoming Steven Spielberg movie based on the original book.

ICEBOX.COM'S "MR. WONG:"
Various perspectives are shared on why any negative and damaging stereotypes should always be directly addressed.

US ASIANS: What is your current philosophy about issues of race and culture?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I believe multiculturalism has been superceded by internationalism. The old model of nations/political states has already begun to recede in importance, as the peoples of the world become increasingly interdependent. Moreover, Bush has come to demonstrate the limits of multiculturalism -- his cabinet is unquestionably the most multicultural in American history, yet also one of the most failed, in my opinion. Even as currents carry us inevitably towards a one-world civilization, movements and forces opposing this change have become ever more strident and powerful, exemplified by fundamentalist and nationalist movements of all stripes. This stormy period of transition is likely to last at least throughout the rest of my lifetime.

US ASIANS: How would you define somebody as an Asian Pacific American? Does it include and/or not include the following type of people: 1) People who are 50/50 with their heritage such as current examples in the media including Ann Curry, Keanu Reeves, Russell Wong, etc.; 2) Part of their recent heritage and less than 50% such as Eddie Van Halen, Reiko Aylesworth (of "24" fame) - similar to how people classify people who are Black if they have any "Black" blood and/or: People who were born in Asia, but raised in the United States?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: People are Asian Pacific American who choose to define themselves as such.

US ASIANS: How could the APA communities be a leading component of your view that "Identity has to become self-selective, not the blood of it. Culture doesn't reside in the genes; it resides in experience. Culture has to become increasingly divorced from the question of appearance. Just because someone looks Asian doesn't mean they are Asian, and just because someone doesn't look Asian doesn't mean they aren't Asian?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Those who define themeselves as APA (Asian Pacific American) are likely to participate in an APA (Asian Pacific American) community.

US ASIANS: If the original 'Flower Drum Song' was a remnant of the way we were portrayed by white artists, what recent productions (film, theater, television, etc.) accurately portrays Asian Pacific Americans in the 21st century - in addition to your updated version of "Flower Drum Song?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: "Better Luck Tomorrow," "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle," the plays of Diana Son, Sung Rno, Lloyd Suh, Chay Yew, Julia Cho, the productions of Ping Chong and Ong Keng Sen, and many others

MS. SAIGON PROTEST
US ASIANS: Resulting from the Ms. Saigon protest where they "lost the battle, but won the war" and being a civil libertarian at heart, do you feel that the status of Asian/Asian Pacific Americans have definitively improved since that time - recognizing the APA (Asian Pacific American) Media Coalition's recent reports?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: It's always two steps forward, one step back. On Broadway, APAs regularly appear in the ensembles of musicals now, and a few have broken out into non-stereotypical leads (e.g. Jose Llana in "Spelling Bee," Thom Sesma in the upcoming Twyla Tharp-Bob Dylan musical "The Times They Are A-Changin.'"). Sandra Oh's success in "Gray's Anatomy" and "Sideways" is also non-stereotypical. In terms of sheer numbers, however, these remain the exceptions rather than the rule.

 
David & Lea Salonga
 
US ASIANS: Do you feel that Hollywood/Broadway still feel that they are on notice, as noted in your past words of "It's not that they can't cast a white guy as an Asian anymore, but they recognize that there's a price to be paid for it?" Have you seen many Asian American actors appearing in a widening range of roles, many of them not specifically Asian American in a stereotypical sense?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I do feel that Hollywood/Broadway is on notice, and some examples appear above. It's extremely interesting, however, as we transition from multiculturalism to internationalism, how the equation begins to change when non-American sensibilities are heard. For instance, the recent flap in Asia over the casting of Chinese actors in "Memoirs of a Geisha" reflects a point of view quite different from that which we experience as APAs.

US ASIANS: Has Ms. Saigon prompt Hollywood/Broadway and/or the general audience change on what they expect when a writer tries to place race and/or incorporate racial mythologies that influence society?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I don't know that Ms. Saigon has really affected Hollywood/Broadway in terms of needing to create racial mythologies which feel more authentic to the root cultures. If anything, the growing importance of foreign markets is driving a desire for greater authenticity, so films won't be summarily rejected by overseas audiences. Audiences in America and abroad do generally nowadays, however, expect to see real Asians in movies/plays about Asians.

LEA SALONGA'S VIEWS ON DIVERSITY (Ms. Saigon/Flower Drum Song Star)
US Asians What are your opinions on the current state of diversity within the television, theater and film industry in the United States?
Lea Salonga Things are getting better... I believe that eventually, more minority actors will be given more opportunities to perform.
US Asians What do you feel is the plight, progress and promise of artists of Asian descent in the American entertainment industry?
Lea Salonga At the end of the day, this is a business, and producers feel that their responsibility is to hire those who will help them reach that goal. So, they'll hire actors who they feel that the majority of people will want to see, and Asian actors don't always fit that bill. I'd like to think that with films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha, it'll change. I know it'll be slow, but it'll happen.
Read more about Lea Salonga's views on diversity and other subjects by clicking HERE

STATE OF ASIAN WOMEN WRITERS
US ASIANS: You've stated that works by Asian and Black women are interesting to White women because they identify with them as women (hence more popular in literature) - could you expand on why this wasn't reciprocated with men?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: First of all, women read more literature than men, so their influence more strongly felt in the book market. Second, women are just starting to have their stories widely told by women writers, so they presumably feel a greater attraction to many such works, not only those which feature characters of their own race. White men have been the protagonists and authors of literary works for centuries, so they're not making up for any deficit in the canon which would necessarily draw them to works about men from different cultures.

US ASIANS: Could this "battle of the sexes" be the foundation of the conflict in the celebrated feud between Frank Chin and Maxine Hong Kingston?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think it contributes to the feud, but is only one in a multiplicity of factors fueling the conflict. If "battle of the sexes" were the foundation for Chin's discontent, he wouldn't be so unhappy with me!

US ASIANS: With authors, who are women of color, having to deal with choosing between being feminists and multiculturalists - do they have an advantage (their popularity over male authors) or disadvantage (portraying males in an unfavorable light - "Color Purple" and "Joy Luck Club") over their male counterparts?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: There are advantages and disadvantages to every position. I don't believe its possible to generalize about whether the balance tips one way or another.

LIFE AS A ROLE MODEL
US ASIANS: Do you consider yourself as a role model for the artists of Asian, Filipino and Asian Pacific American descent? If so, what do you feel are the obligations of a "role model?"

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Minorities and women often complain about being "objectified." Becoming a role model is a form of objectification also, and just as pernicious (though rather more seductive). The obligation of good role model is to become as full a human being as possible, an objective which often conflicts with the expectations imposed upon role models.

US ASIANS: To what extent do you embrace the position of being a role model and/or a leadership capacity for those within the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities and why do you feel that there are more legitimate role models to share this responsibility with you? Do you embrace the Charles Barkley saying that one's parents should be one's role model?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I try to contribute to those APA (Asian Pacific American) organizations with which I feel an affinity. As for Barkley, one's parents are one's role models; whether they're good ones or not varies widely from family to family.

US ASIANS: What other artists should be and/or are "role models" for aspiring Asian/Asian Pacific American artists in the fields of theater, film, television and music?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: No one "should" or "shouldn't be" a role model. If APAs accept them as such, then they are, for better or worse. That said, I feel artists such as Ang, Yo Yo, Gish Jen, and Jessica Hagedorn have been excellent leaders and inspirations.


To continue our discussion on diversity with David 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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