David Henry Hwang is an American playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Born in Los Angeles in 1957, Hwang went to Stanford University where he received a degree in English. He then went to the Yale School of Drama for a short while, leaving as he had a play already being produced.
Hwang's first dramatic success was FOB (an acronym for "Fresh Off the Boat"). It premiered Off-Broadway in 1980 at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, and earned him an Obie Award. FOB was notable: It was the first in a trilogy of plays (also including The Dance and the Railroad and Family Devotions) that explored the experience of Chinese immigrants in the United States. The Dance and the Railroad was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Perhaps Hwang's most significant success was the 1988 play M. Butterfly, recounting the story of a French diplomat and Chinese spy intertwined with Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. The play won the Tony Award for Best Play, making Hwang the first Asian-American playwright to win the award. BD Wong won for Best Featured Actor (the first Asian-American actor to win the award). The play was adapted into a film in 1993. Like many of his works, M. Butterfly examines the contradictions and politics of gender identities, cultural clashes, and postcolonial theories.
Hwang's plays are complex in their subject matter and characters, and he is generally regarded as one of the most profound voices in contemporary American theatre--especially contemporary Asian-American Theatre. In 1998, the East West Players named their new mainstage The David Henry Hwang Theatre. In 2018, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. In addition to his own original works, Hwang also contributed to the books and libretti of several musical theatre pieces (original and revival), including Aida, Flower Drum Song, and Tarzan.
Hwang continues to write for stage, television, and film. HIs awards and recognitions include Pulitzer-Prize nominations, Guggenheim Fellowships, National Endowment for the Arts, the William Inge Award, the Asia Society Cultural Acheivement Award, the Doris Duke Artist Award, and the China Institute Blue Cloud Award--among many others. He is on the board of the Dramatists' Guild and the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas. He is a Professor of Playwriting at Columbia University.
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