Hwang's need to hear his own work trumps audience satisfaction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2009, 12:00am

Playwright David Henry Hwang's talk at the opening on Monday of the summer Institute of Arts and Humanities programme at the University of Hong Kong was a bit frustrating, because he kept getting interrupted by his own plays.

As soon as one of his ideas on Asian-American identity and politics in theatre became interesting, he would pause to present another excerpt of his work, acted out by members of a university troupe.

When the M Butterfly author did speak on such topics as his rant against Broadway's white ways, it was highly entertaining. 'Miss Saigon annoyed me so much because we had just done M Butterfly, which tried to deconstruct Asian myths. Then Miss Saigon came along with all the same stereotypes,' Hwang said. 'It's like, wow, [our play] didn't achieve anything.'

However, his most poignant comment came in articulating the theatre process from a writer's perspective.

'Playwriting is like writing music. The notes are not that important. It's how it's played that's important. That's why playwrights need to hear their work read.'

In this case though, the audience would have preferred to hear more from the writer.

After the session, CitySeen did manage to chat with Hwang, and he confirmed that David Bowie was for a time linked to writing the music for his impending musical on kung fu legend Bruce Lee. 'Unfortunately it didn't work out but, hey, I got to hang out with David Bowie for six months.'