The Sound of a Voice: David Hwang

  • Gerald Rabkin


In 1979, a Stanford University senior, enacting a time-honoured rite of passage, directed a production of his first play in the lounge of his college dormitory. Within a year, the play, FOB (Fresh Off the Boat — an ironic acronym for recent immigrants) made a rapid journey from Stanford to the O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut to Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York, and the fledgling playwright, a young Chinese-American, David Henry Hwang, received national recognition as a vigorous new voice in the American theatre.1 A year after the impact-making debut of FOB at the Public Theatre in 1980, Hwang confirmed his originality there with The Dance and the Railroad. Through the ensuing decade, Hwang slowly increased his oeuvre, but no new effort achieved the attention of his early work until 1988 when he made a spectacular Broadway debut with M. Butterfly, a play which rapidly achieved a dreamed-about level of critical appreciation and commercial success. With the successful London production of the play in 1989, this recognition has been replicated internationally. In an era in which the imaginative authority of drama has clearly waned (on Broadway in particular the playwright is an endangered species), Hwang’s artistic ascendancy is one of the few bright spots in contemporary American theatre.


Rich Relation Public Theatre Racial Consciousness American Theatre Asian Theatre 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald Rabkin

There are no affiliations available

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