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
WHAT IS THE PRESENT DEFINITION OF AN APA?
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.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I believe multiculturalism has been superceded by internationalism.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
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 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.
STATE OF ASIAN WOMEN WRITERS
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.
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
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.