Daily Notes on Literature, Pop Culture & Media, and Academia

David Henry Hwang’s Plays in Chicago

Posted by litdaily on June 26, 2011

Chinglish, the latest play by David Henry Hwang, premieres today at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre with a scheduled run through July 24, 2011. Chinglish takes on a theme that Hwang also explored in his popular Broadway play M. Butterfly: a Western man in China entrapped in his orientalist vision of the East as feminine, mysterious, and at the same time also incomprehensible. Hwang’s latest play is about an American businessman in China and reprises the East-West encounter in the context of fear of a surging Chinese economy. While Gallimard in M. Butterfly was a French diplomat navigating the war theatre in South-east Asia, the changed occupation of the protagonist in Chinglish to a businessman reflects that capitalist economy has replaced the paradigm of militarism as the new frontier that drives the West’s imagination of China. You can find Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones’s preview of Chinglish and an interesting discussion of Hwang’s writing process here.

Another Hwang play Yellow Face is playing at the Silk Road Theatre Company and is produced in collaboration with Goodman. Yellow Face seeks to bring honesty to discussions about the role of race in casting media productions. The play’s context includes Hwang’s role in the controversy surrounding the casting of New York theatre production of Miss Saigon in 1990, when Asian Americans protested the casting of Jonathan Pryce, a Welsh-born white actor, to play an Asian character…more>>


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