Trying to Find Chinatown
The one-act play Trying to Find Chinatown describes an encounter between Benjamin, an ethnic Caucasian who considers himself Asian, and Ronnie, an ethnic Asian who knows little about his Asian heritage. Benjamin, adopted into a Chinese-American family, is trying to find his father’s birth house in New York’s Chinatown. He stops to ask Ronnie, a street musician playing a violin, for directions, assuming the Asian man would know his way around Chinatown. When Benjamin refers to Ronnie’s instrument as a “fiddle,” Ronnie is insulted and calls Benjamin a hick. Benjamin berates Ronnie for not knowing much about his cultural heritage. Ronnie returns with a passionate defense of American musical heritage, referencing both African and European elements. When Benjamin finally reaches his father’s home, he is ecstatic to find himself completely immersed in Chinese culture and recollects the struggles of his immigrant family. Hwang’s play points out that one’s racial identity is often based not on skin color, but on connections.