David Henry Hwang is one of the most influential American playwrights working in the theater today. His works include M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and Soft Power.
David Henry Hwang is an advocate for Asian American theatre as well as for diversity in theatre profession in general. East West Players, the country’s oldest Asian American theatre honored him by naming their new mainstage “David Henry Hwang Theatre” in 1993. He is associate professor and concentration head of playwriting in the Theatre Department of Columbia University. He was appointed as the chair of American Theatre Wing, the organization which founded Tony Awards and presents Obie Awards.
In addition to David Henry Hwang’s public talk, we are delighted to feature an afternoon symposium on his work, featuring scholarly commentators Esther Kim Lee (Duke University, Theater Studies), Daphne Lei (UCI Drama), and Julia Lee (UCI Asian American Studies).
About David Henry Hwang
He is best known as the author of M. Butterfly (1988), a play inspired by a real-life incident involving a French diplomat and an opera singer from China, which bears resemblance of Puccini's Madam Butterfly. M Butterfly won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award, and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The play has been staged in over four dozen countries and was the basis for a major motion picture starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone. In late 2017, M. Butterfly was revived on Broadway, directed by Julie Taymor. As arguably the most anthologized Asian American play, M Butterfly is frequently taught in UCI courses. In the past spring, more than 100 UCI students were able to attend the performance of M. Butterfly at the South Coast Repertory through Illuminations.
He is the author of many other award-winning works for the stage. Golden Child, premiered Off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1996, received an Obie Award, and subsequently played on Broadway, where it received three Tony nominations. Chinglish, Hwang’s first bilingual play, premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, where it won a 2011 Jefferson Award for Best New Work, before moving to Broadway and being named Best New American Play of 2011 by Time Magazine. Yellow Face, which premiered at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum and New York's Public Theater in 2007, also won an Obie Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2018, Yellow Face was named one of the best American plays of the past 25 years by the New York Times. Soft Power, with composer Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home), directed by Leigh Silverman, premiered in spring 2018 at Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and will open in New York in 2019. Soft Power received six L.A. Ovation Awards in 2019. Other plays from Hwang's 30 year career include FOB (Obie Award), The Dance & the Railroad (Drama Desk Nomination, CINE Golden Eagle Award), and Family Devotions (Drama Desk Nomination). Hwang was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hwang is also a prolific screenwriter, television writer and librettist. Works in music categories range from experimental works with Philip Glass (such as The Sound of a Voice and 100 Airplanes on the Roof), reimagined traditional stories (such as the Chinese classic The Dream of Red Chamber), opera (Grammy-winning Ainadamar) and musicals (such as Flower Drum Song and Soft Power). He also co-wrote the Gold Record Solo with the late pop star Prince.