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
FOB - CHINESE THEATER
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think Chinese Opera, still relatively unknown by American and even APA audiences, continues to serve as a wonderful theatrical metaphor and manifestation of traditional culoture, which can then be fused with more Western forms of presentation.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: In the production I first directed at Stanford, I used a sort of Merce Cunningham-influenced (Merce Cunningham is an acclaim avande-garde/free form dancer and choreographer) formalist stage presentation for the Chinese mythological sequences.
US ASIANS: What was your knowledge base on Chinese Opera and what facet of Chinese Opera did John Lone (through his training in the traditions of Chinese opera in Hong Kong before coming to the U.S. to study Western style acting) highlighted as applicable to your production?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I knew virtually nothing about Chinese Opera at the time I began working with the form in FOB.
US ASIANS: Do you find it ironic that the conflicts (i.e. immigrant/"Steve", rejecting one's Chinese heritage/cousin/"Dale" and trying to accommodate both cultures/cousin's girlfriend/"Grace") focused on in FOB regarding the issues of assimilating in America are still very prevalent in 2006?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Not really, given the prevalence of immigrant and first-generation Americans in the APA (Asian Pacific Ameican) population of today. I do feel that shame for one's root culture is probably less intense today than it was during my generation, given the country's greater acceptance of multiculturalism, particularly in major American cities.
US ASIANS: Could you share the creative origins and inspirations that were the genesis of employing Chinese theatrical techniques to present your characters as figures from Chinese mythology?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I have to give credit to Bob Ackerman for first coming up with the idea at the O'Neill, and then to Mako for really integrating Chinese theatre in a meaningful and authentic sense for the Public Theatre production.
US ASIANS: In F.O.B., are the "yellow ghosts" that Dale spoke still firmly embedded within the Asian/Chinese American culture in 2006?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think tensions between immigrant parents and first-generation offspring remain just as prevalent and intense in 2006.
US ASIANS: Isn't it interesting that many within the APA (Asian Pacific Ameican) communities are like "Dale" - remain a "perpetual other, doomed to live forever on the outside" because they are "alienated" from the Asian Pacific American and Asian/Chinese culture because they don't know and/or won't learn?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Yes, although with time, my attitudes about this have mellowed somewhat. I think it's possible for individuals to find some satisfying sense of identity in passions and activities other than those related to ethnic background.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I'm not familiar with "Meeting of the Minds," but I certainly tried to foment a cultural and political debate by placing Maxine Hong Kingston's Fa Mu Lan and Frank Chin's Gwan Gung together in the same environment.
US ASIANS: Isn't it ironic and sad that issues that serve as the foundation for F.O.B. are still firmly embedded issues of contention that hasn't been resolved - such as was highlighted by Grace's choices between traditional Chinese, modern American ways and injustices that immigrant families are suffering?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Yes, although if I were to write the play today, I might represent Dale as even more successful at having been "accepted" by the dominant culture.
US ASIANS: Was one of your points to have audiences saddened by the character "Dale" - someone who is desperately trying to be hip and trying to be white at the sacrifice of having any substantial knowledge of the history of the Asian Pacific American (as noted at US Asians' "Timeline Section") or Chinese (in the U.S. and in China) communities? In addition, the irony Dale and Steve have taken the identity of the invisible American in the eyes of the general public - since their respective histories are not usually written in today's history books, they are not considered a "minority group," their highlights not generally recognized, their business/financial dealings are scrutinized from an assumed agenda that other interests are involved in their decisions, etc.?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Yes, I do think Dale is a sad figure, though there is some hope at the end of the play that his world view has been disrupted, and that some growth might eventually result from this.
US ASIANS: Is the irony that first generation immigrants ("Grace" and Steve") are portrayed as having closer ties to their history/culture than Asians born in the U.S. ("Dale") still in existence today - especially considering since the majority of Asians in the U.S. are immigrants?
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Well, Dale is an ABC, not an immigrant, who grew up in the 1960's and 70's, so it's not surprising that his ties to his root culture are almost non-existent.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I realized I could live through a failure, and remain excited about being a writer, as well as satisfied with my own creative journey. This was extremely liberating in terms of showing me that I would always be a writer.
TRYING TO FIND CHINATOWN
US ASIANS: Is Benjamin (Caucasian looking person adopted by an Asian American family at birth) a representative of a person who is Asian by his culture, not his "face?"
DAVID HENRY HWANG: Yes.
US ASIANS: Recognizing the themes expressed in "Trying to Find Chinatown" - would you describe a person who has was born in the United States, lived in Asia (China and Japan) for over twenty years, speak fluently (without any accent) Chinese/Japanese/English), reads fluently (Chinese/Japanese/English) and lived in the United States for over twenty years an Asian Pacific American in your "intercultural" world of plurality - even though he is Black? (Note: This is a real person)
DAVID HENRY HWANG: If this individual identified himself as an APA (Asian Pacific Ameican), I would accept his self-categorization.
Realizing that David
has utilized various theater productions to examine the history of the
Asian Pacific American communities. Recognizing that David's career started
with his success in theater,