Prolific Playwright David Henry Hwang Discusses the Shows That Got Away
November 15th, 2015
by David Henry Hwang
The New Yorker called David Henry Hwang "the most successful Chinese-American playwright this country has produced." Hwang is a Tony, Drama Desk, OBIE and OCC Award-winning playwright and a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (The Dance and the Railroad, M. Butterfly, Yellow Face). He wrote the book to several operas as well as the Broadway musicals Tarzan, Aida and the Flower Drum Song revival. In 2012, Hwang won the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which honors playwrights who have distinctive and compelling voices, and whose current bodies of work exhibit exceptional talent and artistic excellence. (This year's honorees include Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Dominique Morisseau.)
Below, BroadwayBox talks to the ground-breaking playwright about the five Broadway shows he most wishes he could go back and see the original productions of.
Death of a Salesman, 1949, Broadway
Because this is my favorite American play, I would love to have experienced its original incarnation. My guess is, there would be aspects of the production which would enthrall me, and others that would feel dated, but both would help me understand the play even better.
A Chorus Line, Public Theater, 1975
I am fortunate to have seen this show several times on Broadway during its original run, including the landmark performance when it became the longest-running musical in American history. However, there would be something even more amazing about enjoying this show with its original cast, on whom the roles were based, in the intimacy of the Newman Theater. I did get to see Hamilton at the Newman, however, which strikes me as the equivalent experience for our current age.
A Raisin in the Sun, 1959, Broadway.
I would love to have felt the excitement of watching the first hit Broadway play by an African American woman (which remains a rarity to this day). To see Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Lonne Elder III, Lou Gossett, and the rest of that amazing cast would be revelatory.
Loot, 1968, Broadway
I've always been fascinated by this absurdist farce by the British playwright Joe Orton, who sadly remains most famous for having been bludgeoned to death by his lover. I love the text of this play, and have seen a few versions (including the 1986 revival with Alec Baldwin and Kevin Bacon), but would be very curious to understand how the original production tackled this difficult material.
The Chickencoop Chinaman, American Place Theatre, 1972
This was the first play by an Asian American playwright, Frank Chin, to receive a major New York production, and I wish I could experience this groundbreaking work, with its fantastic cast led by Randall Duk Kim. Frank has hated me ever since my own first production, but presumably, if I went back in time, he wouldn't know that he would one day regard me his detested rival!