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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

 

US ASIANS' INVITATION
In a L.A. Times article, you've stated that reporters always ask "Was it an Asian role? How do you feel about interracial casting?' - and it's something that I'm very ready to talk about, because I'll be living that the rest of my career" - I would like to extend an open invitation to share your thoughts for your audiences, the entertainment industry and the many aspiring Asian/Asian Pacific American artists who regard you as an important role model that inspires them and to pattern their upcoming careers. To begin our interview, could we start with your family background?

 
PERSONAL FACTS
  Surname pronounced "Wong"
Born August 11, 1957, in Los Angeles, California, United States
Son of Henry Yuan (a banker) and Dorothy Yu (a professor of piano; maiden name, Huang) Hwang Married Ophelia Y. M. Chong (an artist), September 21, 1985 (divorced October, 1989)
Married Kathryn A. Layng, December 17, 1993 with 2 children (Noah and Eva)

 
EDUCATION
  Stanford University, B.A., 1979; attended Yale University School of Drama, 1980-81.
 
MEMBERSHIPS
  Writers Guild of America, PEN (member of board of directors, 1990--1993 )
Dramatists Guild / Young Playwrights Inc.(member of board of directors, 1988--)
American Civil Liberties Union, Phi Beta Kappa
For additional info, click HERE

PARENTS & RELATIVES
US ASIANS: Could you share what initially prompted your parents to be strong supporters of East West Players? Was it the result of the involvement of people such as Mako/Bessie Loo/Beulah Quo/etc. being involved and/or was it that they were the only viable outlets for actors of Asian descent in the U.S. at that time?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Upon arriving in the States, my father attended college for a year in Oregon, then began a long and frustrating search for a job. One of the first people to employ him was Beulah Quo's future husband, Edmund Kwoh. Though my father didn't last long at that firm, our families remained friendly in subsequent years. My parents learned about EWP (East West Players) from Beulah shortly after its founding. My mother was a concert pianist, and so ended up being the "pit orchestra" for one of EWP's (East West Players) first productions, Menotti's operetta, "The Medium." I remember hanging around rehearsals as a child. So the connection between my parents and EWP (East West Players) began very early in the institution's life.

US ASIANS: What introspective perspectives did your parents provide to your works, considering their support by seeing all your works and accepting that part of their lives is interwoven with your writings?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: My parents have been very supportive of my career, after initial opposition from my father, but they've never been particularly active in providing dramaturgical advice. My father's always been very gregarious and outspoken, but our tastes don't always coincide. To date, he's only really embraced two works of mine: "FOB" and "Flower Drum Song." About everything in between, he has reservations.

US ASIANS: You've shared that learning about your heritage was replaced by the goal of assimilating into American culture from your family, could you share your thoughts on the possible reasons that had the highest priority that your parents might have had to pursue this course of upbringing that placed a lower priority of one's history?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I think my parents were simply products of their times, immigrants to America during a period when the culture emphasized assimilation. They embraced that philosophy in the hope that they and their children would succeed. I can't argue with any certainty that they were wrong -- they assimilated to the best of their ability, and they did succeed.

US ASIANS: What happened to the well-received stories/non-fiction novel about your family history (that included the tales of her aunt casting out demons in Fukien China) that you wrote at the age of 12 from your grandmother when you thought she was going to die?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I still have a copy of it, as do many of my relatives.

US ASIANS: Having observed Monterey Park's transition from a place that wouldn't sell a house to your parent to a place that is almost entirely Chinese provide a glimpse of how the world is in constant flux that provides the lesson that everything changes in time?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Absolutely. And/or the lesson that "Fear creates the thing feared!"

R.I.P.: HENRY HWANG (Hyphen Magazine)
 
Henry Hwang, founder of the first Asian American bank (and father of playwright David Henry Hwang) passed away last Saturday at the age of 77. His story is the stuff of immigrant fairytales: arrive in the U.S. with nothing but a few bucks, toil away in a Chinese laundromat, get a CPA, start a bank, and eventually sell it for 90 million big ones. No wonder he was a big Republican supporter and Reagan crony.
 
David Henry Hwang's Response
Regarding "My father being a "big Republican supporter and Reagan crony."" He also co-chaired "Republicans for Clinton" in the 90's, and eventually came to feel that Republicans were generally insensitive to Asians and other minorities. Towards the end of his life, he strongly opposed the Presidency of George W. Bush, particularly the Iraq War. The last Presidential vote of my father's life was for John Kerry. For more info, click HERE.
 
SECOND MARRIAGE
US ASIANS: Having been described by many in the media that you are a "changed man" upon entering your second marriage (along with two kids), what new perspective(s) on life and creativity has this relationship provided the opportunity to discover and/or pursue - along with other prominent situations that have occurred in your private life?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Who described me as a "changed man?" What was I supposedly like before? LOL - Certainly marriage and becoming a parent are two of the major events that change the lives of many people.

Actually, I didn't find marriage per se necessarily transformative, as I'd always been sort of a serial monogamist anyway -- moreover, my first marriage didn't feel so very different from living with a girlfriend, albeit with more extensive paperwork.

Having children, however, has been a huge transition, one I struggle to live up to every day. A certain amount of self-absorsion is probably necessary for an artist, but as a parent, you need to be there for your kids -- present, in the moment, providing guidance while also fostering their eventual independence. I have found this incredibly difficult! Furthermore, being in a long-term marriage is also challenging -- at this writing,
 
 
David & Kathryn
Kathryn and I have been together 16 years, and married for 13. As couples grow older, I think they either grow apart, or manage to achieve a new level of intimacy; we're still working to find the latter! I'm sure both of these are impacting my work, though I'm still too close to pinpoint exactly how.

US ASIANS: What perspective(s) does your wife share of your work that is different than how your work is perceived in the media - recognizing that she played Renee in M. Butterfly and the dominatrix in "Bondage" - along with playing the nurse for four season on TV's "Doogie Howser.M.D.?" Recognizing the various themes within "Bondage" that included interracial relationships, the trials of two people trying to connect while being vulnerable serve as a foundation of understanding between your wife and yourself?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: You should ask Kathryn. I wouldn't want to put words in her mouth.



Learn about David's views on the foundation and history behind developing his creative talents 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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