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Playwright David Henry Hwang, Author of M. Butterfly and Other Hits, Will Speak at Davidson

by Bill Giduz

David Henry HwangDavidson College invites the public to its annual Reynolds Lecture, to be presented on Monday evening, November 4, by playwright and screenwriter David Henry Hwang. Hwang's talk, titled "The Fluidity of Identity," will begin at 7: 30 p.m. in Duke Family Performance Hall. It will be followed by a reception and book signing in the adjacent Brown Atrium.

Tickets are free but required. They may be obtained in person at the Alvarez College Union ticket office weekdays 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They are also available for a $3 convenience fee online, or by telephone at 704-894-2135. Individuals may obtain up to four tickets.

Described by the New York Times as "a true original" and by TIME magazine as "the first important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller," Hwang is best known as the author of the 1988 play M. Butterfly. That work won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. To date it has been staged in more than four dozen countries, and was the basis for a major motion picture.

A first-generation American born of Chinese parents in Los Angeles, Hwang attended Stanford University and the Yale University School of Drama. He wrote his first play, FOB, during his senior year at Stanford at age 22. Thanks to what he describes as "lucky breaks," FOB was being produced on Broadway within a year. That production represented the first-ever play on Broadway by an Asian American playwright.

Hwang's work has become a window through which the public views Asian American issues, but he has not been entirely comfortable with that idea. He said in an interview, "You become de facto spokesperson for an entire community, but no ethnic community is monolithic. Everyone in the community thinks that individual should represent their point of view, but that's impossible. Being criticized is just a part of the job. I speak for myself, and represent only my own Asian American experience."

Hwang's most recent play, Chinglish, is a hit Broadway comedy about an American businessman in China. It received a Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding New Play, and in 2011 was named "Best New American Play" by TIME magazine.

His other major works include Golden Child, which played on Broadway and received three Tony nominations, and Yellow Face, which also won an Obie Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His other plays include The Dance & the Railroad, and Family Devotions.

According to Opera News, Hwang is also America's most-produced living opera librettist. He has written four works with composer Phillip Glass. The Deutsche Grammofone recording of his libretto for Ainadamar won two Grammy Awards after spending time at the top of Billboard magazine's classical music charts.

From 1994-2001, Hwang served by appointment of President Bill Clinton on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. In 2012 he received the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre, the Asia Society Cultural Achievement Award, and the Steinberg Award for playwriting, which includes the largest monetary prize in the American theater.

For more information about his talk at Davidson, call 704-894-2254.