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The Sound of a Voice: David Hwang

  • Gerald Rabkin

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Rich Relation Public Theatre Racial Consciousness American Theatre Asian Theatre 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (New York: Vintage, 1977) p. 62.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Frank Chin, The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981) pp. 63–4.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Frank Chin, J. P. Chan, L. F. Inada and S. H. Wong (eds), Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1974) p. viii.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    David Henry Hwang, FOB and The House of Sleeping Beauties (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1983) p. 10.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    David Henry Hwang, The Dance and the Railroad and Family Devotions (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1983) p. 41.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    David Henry Hwang, Rich Relations, unpublished typescript, 1985, p. 14.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    David Henry Hwang, The Sound of a Voice (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1984) p. 16.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Yukio Mishima, ‘Introduction’ to Yasunari Kawabata’s House of Sleeping Beauties (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1980) pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly, in American Theatre, August 1988, p. 4.Google Scholar

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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