Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

Synopsis

In the late 19th century, Asian American drama made its debut with the spotlight firmly on the lives and struggles of Asians in North America, rather than on the cultures and traditions of the Asian homeland. Today, Asian American playwrights continue to challenge the limitations of established theatrical conventions and direct popular attention toward issues and experiences that might otherwise be ignored or marginalized. This reference highlights the careers and works of 52 American playwrights of origins from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and China. Entries are arranged alphabetically and are written by expert contributors. Each entry includes a brief biography, a discussion of major works and themes, a summary of the dramatist's critical reception, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The volume closes with a selected, general bibliography, which includes anthologies, critical works, and periodicals.

Excerpt

During the embryonic stage of Asian American writings in the 1880s, Asian American authors mainly detailed the customs, lifestyles, and traditions of their Asian homeland. In contrast to the early novels and autobiographies, however, Asian American drama made its debut with the spotlight firmly on the lives and struggles of Asians in North America. In what might be considered the earliest Asian American dramatic works in the United States—Confucius, Buddha, and Christ—which Sadakichi Hartmann wrote between 1889 and 1897, the playwright attempted to transform the American theater of the late Victorian period by employing a fusion of poetry, music, and mystic elements. Ling-ai (Gladys) Li, the first Asian American woman playwright on record, focused on the conflict between two sets of equally compelling values from the cultures of America and China in The Submission of Rose Moy (1924). Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, their works together started a tradition still evident today in Asian American dramatic literature, namely, challenging the limitations of established theater conventions and directing popular attention to issues and experiences that might otherwise be ignored or marginalized.

But the continental U.S. theater was not ready for Asian American plays when they first appeared. Although Li wrote and reportedly produced her first play without incident in Hawaii, Hartmann’s scripts never saw production. Instead, he saw the inside of Charles Street Jail in Boston because his Christ was deemed “vicious and salacious according to American ideas,” and all its copies were confiscated. He was fined $100 for violating the community’s sensibilities. Yet Asian American drama as a literary canon has been composed and produced for domestic consumption. From the commercially successful productions, such as M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang and Tea by Velina Hasu Houston, to staged readings of scripts unheard of outside the field, the wide-ranging themes like

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