DAVID HENRY HWANG INTERVIEW
US ASIANS' INVITATION
US ASIANS' INVITATION
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!"
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,
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?