David Henry Hwang

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David Henry Hwang in NY Photo Credit Lia Chang (cropped).jpg

David Henry Hwang (August 11, 1957) is an American playwright, librettist, screenwriter, and theater professor at Columbia University in New York City.


  • In 1980, Chinese-Americans were certainly considered perpetual foreigners to America, even more so than today. In addition, Asians, in general, were regarded as poor, uneducated, and manual laborers—cooks, waiters, laundrymen—an image which has turned 180 degrees in my lifetime.
  • It seems to me that the biggest challenge for Chinese theater is to cultivate an audience, which would make possible long-running shows. A show that only runs for a few months, tops, fails to generate enough revenue to pay back the investment required to create it. A Chinese Broadway or West End may help to build an audience, but more theaters alone probably will not achieve this goal.
  • In terms of theater, I think the musical is closer to the heart of American popular culture than at any time since the 1950s. Plays, on the other hand, seem less influential than before—particularly with the rise of quality television—and only enjoy long runs on Broadway when they behave like musicals such as Harry Potter and Warhorse. I believe the digital age, in general, has enhanced the value of all live events, including sporting events, concerts—and theater.
  • I was one of the Asian American theatre people who protested the casting of Jonathan Pryce as the Eurasian pimp in the musical MISS SAIGON when it came to Broadway, as an example of “Yellow Face” casting.. The intensity, vehemence, and anger I felt, on both sides of that issue, left me shaken for many years afterwards. So I wrote FACE VALUE, a comedy of mistaken racial identity, to explore the question, “What does it really mean to ‘play’ another race?” As noted above, FACE VALUE became an infamous flop, but the idea of doing a comedy of mistaken racial identity stayed with me for the next fifteen years or so. Eventually, I found another way to realize this notion with YELLOW FACE.

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