Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview

traditions, and theatrical conventions. It is a mistake, then, to think that Hwang emphasizes "Asian" when so much about his early work is distinctly and idealistically "American."


Notes
1.
Hwang discusses the myth of Orientalism (as defined by scholar Edward Said) in an article entitled "People Like Us." The Guardian 21 April 1989: 31.
2.
See Janet V. Haedicke "David Henry Hwang's Mr. Butterfly: The Eye on the Wing." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 7. 1 (Fall 1992): 27-44; James S. Moy . "David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly and Philip Kan Gotanda's Yankee Dawg You Die: Repositioning Chinese American Marginality on the American Stage." Theatre Journal 42 ( 1990): 48-56; Kent Neely "Intimacy or Cruel Love: Displacing the Other by Self Assertion." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 5. 2 (Spring 1991): 167-173; Robert Skloot "Breaking the Butterfly: The Politics of David Henry Hwang." Modern Drama 33 ( 1990): 59-66.
3.
In July of 1990 Hwang and actor B. D. Wong asked Actors Equity to reject producer Cameron Mackintosh's request to allow British actor Jonathan Pryce to recreate his role as a Eurasian in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Hwang's contention was that an Asian-American play the role, and his letter to Equity prompted the cancellation of the musical (which had a $25 million advance sale). Eventually Mackintosh and Equity came to an agreement and the show opened with Pryce in the role.
4.
This phrase, as well as the various comments by Hwang quoted throughout this essay, are taken from my telephone interview with him, October 25, 1993.
5.
As Hwang explains in his "Playwright's Notes" to FOB, Fa Mu Lan is a character from Maxine Hong Kingston The Woman Warrior. Gwan Gung, from Frank Chin Gee, Pop!, is the god of fighters and writers.
6.
The cast list for the New York Public production does call for a number of on- stage presences: two Stage Managers and a Musician. To a Western audience on-stage assistants may seem intrusive and diverting, but such presences are common practice in the Chinese Opera where on-stage musicians and stagehands are distinguished from the actors by means of their plain dress. Given that the actors of FOB wear no stylized costumes, and that Western audiences are not conditioned to ignore on-stage presences no matter how differently (or plainly) they are dressed, it is unclear just how the stage managers and musicians were used in the production. The published script does not offer specific instructions to those who share the stage with Dale, Steve, and Grace.
7.
Hwang named the characters of this play after John Lone and Tzi Ma, both of whom appeared in the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater production of FOB. Lone and Ma originated their roles in The Dance and the Railroad at the Henry Street Settlement's New Federal Theater ( March 1981) and at the Public Theater ( July 1981).
8.
Scott notes that "sometimes actors who had gone abroad [like Lone] returned

-212-

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