Page Turner Focus: David Henry Hwang

page-turner-dh-hwang.jpgPlaywright David Henry Hwang is one of the most widely recognized literary figures participating in “Page Turner,” the Asian American Writers’ Workshop literary festival taking place in Brooklyn this Saturday, and his panel (with Jennifer Hayashida and Sree Sreenivasan) sounds like it’ll be a great discussion about pop culture representations of Asian-Americans in the post-Harold & Kumar era. Ken Chen and Vyshali Manivannan at the AAWW sent along a brief Q&A with Hwang, whose plays include M. Butterfly and Yellow Face, as a quick preview of what attendees can expect. (And since this panel is immediately after the session I’m moderating, I won’t have to miss it, either!)

So, what’ve you been working on lately?

Two new musicals and a new play. Bruce Lee: Journey to the West has been a dream of mine since the mid 1990’s; I’m currently working with composer David Yazbek (The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Joe Turner) and choreographer Dou Dou Huang (Artistic Director of the Shanghai Song & Dance Ensemble). My other musical is Pretty Dead Girl with composer Anne-Marie Milazzo (East Village Opera Company) and director Leigh Silverman (Well, Yellow Face), an Amelie-like romp about sexual fetishes and suicide. My play, tentatively titled Chinglish, is a bilingual piece about a non-Chinese businessman trying to make a deal in a contemporary Chinese provincial city.

We all know that writers can be exceptionally good at procrastinating when they should be writing. What do you typically do to procrastinate?

Come up with ideas for movie pitches.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure that most people would be surprised to know about, be it in literature, food, music, or what have you?

Adolescent pop music (e.g., Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani, Lily Allen); on learning of this proclivity, a friend described me as having “the soul of a thirteen-year-old girl.” Also, porn—as revealed in my recent play, Yellow Face.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what’s on your iPod right now?

I can’t listen to music when I write; it’s too distracting. Based on the previous question, however, I think you already know what’s on my iPod.

What did you do this morning?

Put my wife on a plane to L.A. to attend the first birthday party of her best friend’s daughter.

(photo from UCLA’s Asia Pacific Arts)

12 November 2009 | events |