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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

 

SUPPORT
As we conclude our extensive interview with David, our final questions are focused on the support that viable, talented, prepared and visionar artists within the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities need. Our communities (people of Asian descent living in the United States) have been behind other communities in providing them the proper environment(s) and lacking in giving money to reward risk to artists who have taken the time commitment to being properly trained to be the best they can possibly be.

While you are reading David's words, a personal invitation is extended to people to financially support our artists by either attending their productions (i.e. theater, independent films, television programs, purchasing CDs/DVDs, etc.) and/or providing them the financial resources to properly create visionary works - for those who have the ability to do so. It is our goal (along with David and many others) to eliminate Hollywood's present "Yellow Ceiling" (as described in this article). If one doesn't know where to look, feel free to contact us by clicking HERE to learn of the many opportunities and options that are available. It is our hope that David's below-listed replies will provide invaluable insights on why our artists need our support and its many benefits.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

US ASIANS: Recognizing that we live in a market economy, how would you judge the present support of the APA communities of our artists and what needs to be done to increase the support of our artists?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: The APA community is more inclined to support our artists only after they've been validated by the mainstream (and therefore less in need of support). We need to adjust our thinking, to recognize the importance of our community arts organizations, and our responsibility to support them.

US ASIANS: What do you think needs to happen to have greater financial support from the financial sectors of the APA communities of our artists?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I would love to see wealthy individuals and family foundations in the APA community devoting more of their resources to the arts.

CHRONOLOGY
1957  
Born on August 11 in Los Angeles, California
1975-1979  
Attends Stanford University and graduates with a B.A. in English
1979  
First play, FOB, produced at Stanford
   
Co-Founder of the Stanford Asian American Theatre Project
1979-1980  
Teaches at a high school in Menlo Park, California
   
Teacher of English and writing at Menlo-Atherton High School, Menlo Park, CA,
1980  
Directs Philip Kan Gotanda’s “A Song for a Nisei Fisherman,” at Stanford and in SF
1980-1981  
Attends Yale University School of Drama
1981  
Wins Obie Award for FOB
   
Dance and the Railroad (Drama Desk nomination, Guernsey’s Best Plays)
   
Family Devotions (Drama Desk nomination) produced in New York City
1982  
Directs Philip Kan Gotanda’s “The Dream of Kitamura” in San Francisco
1983  
Sound and Beauty (Two one-act plays set in Japan that are individually-titled “The House of Sleeping Beauties” and “The Sound of a Voice”) produced off-Broadway
1983  
Publishes Broken Promises: Four Plays; awarded Rockefeller Fellowship
1984  
Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
1985  
Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
1986  
Rich Relations produced off-Broadway at the Second Stage
   
As the Crow Flies produced in Los Angeles
1987  
Appointed to Board of Theatre Communications Group
1988  
M Butterfly produced on Broadway and wins the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award, and Tony Award
   
1000 Airplanes on the Roof produced in Vienna, Austria
1989  
Publishes 1000 Airplanes on the Roof
   
M Butterfly (Nominee for Pulitzer Prize for Drama)
1990  
Publishes FOB and Other Plays
   
“Dances In Exile” (libretto for Ruby Shang dance film, PBS)
1991-1994  
Member of Pitzer College’s “Board of Trustees”
1992  
Bondage produced at the Humana Theatre Festival
   
The Voyage (libretto for Philip Glass’ opera) premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House
1993  
M Butterfly (Movie Version)
   
Face Value (Composer/Lyricist/Playwright for Comedy – didn’t open)
1994  
Picture Bride (Script Advisor to the Picture)
   
Golden Gate (Movie Version)
   
“Solo” (Song, co-written with Prince, released on his album “Come”)
1994-2001  
Member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities
   
Served by appointment of President Clinton on the President's Committee for the Arts and the Humanities
1995  
Trying to Find Chinatown (1995-96 Humana Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville)
1997  
Seven Years in Tibet (screenplay for film; uncredited)
   
Golden Child (OBIE Award)
1998  
Golden Child (Tony Nomination)
   
Merchandising (Humana Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville)
   
Peer Gynt (translation of Ibsen play) at Trinity Repertory Theatre
   
After Eros (libretto for Maureen Fleming dance concert) in New York
2000  
Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (4 Tony Awards)
   
The Silver River (libretto for Bright Sheng’s opera) at Spoleto Festival USA
   
Asian Pride Porn (actor in digital short dir. by Greg Pak)
   
Jade Flowerpots and Bound Feet (in anthology “The Square) in Los Angeles
2001  
The Lost Empire (NBC Mini-Series)
2002  
Possession (co-writer, Screenplay)
   
Flower Drum Song (Tony Nomination)
2004  
“Tibet Through the Red Box” based on Peter Sis’ book (Seattle Children’s Theater)
2005  
Ainadamar (libretto for Osvaldo Golijov’s opera) at Santa Fe Opera
2006  
Disney’s Tarzan
US ASIANS: Do you feel that future success will lead to more parents supporting their children's desires/needs to becoming viable artists?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think that will probably happen. After all, what exactly is a secure profession nowadays? Is screenwriting any less secure than, say, aerospace engineering?

ARTIST SUPPORT

US ASIANS: What do you feel is the required commitment of the Asian Pacific American artists? Should we expect Asian Pacific American artists - such as an actor, director, writer, producer, etc. - to take all the necessary steps to attain the highest level and not expecting that they "should" be hired because they are Asian?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: We must absolutely work to be the best artists we can be. Otherwise, we are adding fuel to the fire of right-wingers who argue that any prominence we attain is simply politically correct affirmative-action.

US ASIANS: What are your thoughts on recent films such as Margaret Cho's Bam Bam Celeste, Eric Byler's Charlotte Sometimes, Justin Lin's Better Luck Tomorrow, Alice Wu's Saving Face, Georgia Lee's Red Doors, Greg Pak's Robot Stories, Jet Li's Unleashed, Rice Rhapsody from Jackie Chan's company, B.D. Wong's film with Margaret Cho, etc.?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Of those you mention, I've only seen "Better Luck," "Saving Face," and "Robot Stories," all of which I enjoyed immensely.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

US ASIANS: What would be your words to people (audience, financiers, parents, artists, media, etc.) who are serious about providing tangible support to the Asian/Asian Pacific American entertainment communities?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Give money, reward risk.

US ASIANS: What would your words be to all the well-intentioned parties that were stumbling over each other in FOX TV's "Bonzai" incident where the Asian American executives (Wenda Fong - former President of CAPE) championed/"green-lighted" a summer replacement show that prompted various APA media advocacy organizations to adamantly opposed the show's airing - in addition to the APA Media Coalition's President (Karen Narasaki) and SAG's APA Caucus (Aki Aleong) were constantly sparring one another on the same issue?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: APAs (Asian Pacific Americans) are not monolithic. Not only is it understandable that we would disagree, but non-violent debate is healthy and necessary.

US ASIANS: Don't you think that it is time for Hollywood to celebrate the achievements/artistry of prominent artists of Asian descent in a big televised event? This event would acknowledge the various high-profiled actors/directors remaking Asian films, the fast-growing interest of Bollywood/Lollywood (i.e. Gurinder Chadha, Aishwarya Rai, M.I.A.), integration of martial arts in countless movies, the prominence of Asian directors (i.e. Ang Lee, John Woo, M. Night Shymalan, etc.) and upcoming films (i.e. Memoirs of a Geisha). Wouldn't it be a magical experience to have on the above-listed program ("Hollywood's Celebration of Asian American Artistry") the following "once in a lifetime experiences:"
 
  • Medley from your version of Flower Drum Song performed by Lea Salonga, Vanessa Williams, Sumi Jo and Regine Valesquez
  • Merging of musical styles of Yoyo Ma's Silk Road Project, Twelve Girls Band & Sarah Chang (arranged by Tan Dun)
  • Witnessing comical magic when Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan, Henry Cho and Margaret Cho ad-libbing off of each other
  • Creative magic when Linkin Park, P.O.D., M.I.A., qBert & Dan "The Automator" Nakamura performing together
  • "Old Skool" music madness with Hiroshima, Ozomatli and Mandrill
  • Celebrating the careers of people/movies such as Anna May Wong, Jackie Chan, Tiger Woods, Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon), Tak Fujimoto, George Aratani, Ismail Merchant and Yoyo Ma
  • Dance performance by former dancers Zhang Ziyi and Aishwarya Rai along with Edward Liang, Yuan Yuan Tan and Zhang Wei Qiang
  DAVID HENRY HWANG: Sounds great!

PARTING WORDS

US ASIANS: In the public's eye, you are best known for M. Butterfly (in addition to works such as "Aido" for American audiences and your updated version of "Flower Drum Song" for Asian Pacific American communities) - which works and/or achievements would you hope audiences and your peers would recognize as your prominent achievement?

STATUS OF THESE PROJECTS
Project Status
Jessica Lange picture at 20th Century Fox, based on a Russian film called "Umbrellas for Newlyweds" Dead
Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" for Martin Scorsese Dead
  Largo for Trinity Repertory Company Dead
Disney’s Tarzan with music by Phil Collins Broadway
Caleb Carr’s The Alienist scheduled to be produced by Scott Rudin (book optioned in 1993) Dead
Adaptation of Isaac Foundation Trilogy with French director Jean-Jacques Armand Dead
DAVID HENRY HWANG: But, the thing about movies, is that they can always come back to life!
 
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Ideally, it would be great if I was remembered as someone who contributed to the development of a world culture.

US ASIANS: What three words would describe your entire body of works?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Eclectic / Searching / Theatrical

US ASIANS: What three words would describe David Henry Hwang as a person?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Unfinished / Curious / Evolving

US ASIANS: David, a personal word of thanks for the time and attention that you have spent, considering your very busy schedule, in answering the many questions within this interview. Your skills to articulate informed responses to a vast myriad of important subjects (whether the general public agrees or disagrees) has put forth a considerable foundation of knowledge that is invaluable for any people/entites/organizations that seeks to be an artist that will make invaluable contributions.

We, at US Asians, extend our support to your many upcoming projects that includes "Tarzan" (on Broadway), Yellow Face and your project with Unsuk Chin entitled "Alice in Wonderland."


Click HERE. to read a review of David Henry Hwang's play "Yellow Face"
that was performed at the Music Center's Mark Taper Forum in 2007

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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