Speaking of “Yellow Face”: David Henry Hwang

David Henry HwangAsianWeek’s recent review of infamous Yellow Face performance (which John blogged about earlier this week) seems particularly timely given that David Henry Hwang’s first new play in 10 years, Yellow Face, opened this week at the historic Public Theater in New York City. Reviews have been mixed thus far.

The quasi-biographic play is a self-analytic exploration of racial identity and politics. The play begins with the protaginist, simply called D.H.H, leading a protest against the casting of Jonathan Pryce as a Eurasian in the Broadway musical “Miss Siagon” – something that Hwang actually did do in the early 90s. D.H.H. eventually goes on to mistakenly cast a white man (believing him to be of mixed race) in an Asian role in his own play. Hilarity/drama ensues as D.H.H. tries to cover up his mistake and save his own reputation as a leader in the Asian-American community.

“The play is a mix of fact and fiction, in a mock stage documentary style, about a character based on me,”

I find it intriguing that David Henry Hwang, an artist that has played a pivotal role in the cultivation of the Asian-American identity, still grapples with the discussion and exploration of race.

“I think I’ve been struggling since the “Miss Saigon” incident back in 1990 to make sense of, how do you talk about the nuances of race, both the desire to get past race and the awareness that racism still exists? How do you balance those two? I found that by creating a character that I actually gave my name to, in a strange way it liberated me to make him a character. Many times with autobiographical characters in plays, it’s very difficult to have them be fully fleshed out, even someone like Tom in “The Glass Menagerie.” It’s kind of counterintuitive, but by naming him after myself he became more of a character. “

Has anyone had an opportunity to check this play out?

Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel - .
How does this post make you feel?
  • Excited
  • Fascinated
  • Amused
  • Disgusted
  • Sad
  • Angry

Author: Bo

A 30something, 1.5 generation Korean-American/New Yorker who spends her day as an HR exec. specializing in corporate diversity & inclusion. I get to think about ways to make "The Man" less male, white, and straight. It's the best job in the world! When I'm not trying to change corporate America, I teach yoga and dabble in holistic health counseling. I have an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business and my undergraduate from the University of Michigan. Lesser known facts about me: I enjoy b&w film photography, training for endurance races, and making homemade jam. Other mindless observations can be found at http://itsbo.blogspot.com/