David Henry Hwang Admits to Playing a Role in MISS SAIGON Yellow-Face Controversy
Miss Saigon is about to return to the West End, opening at the Prince Edward Theatre on May 21, and though this production has had a smooth road to opening night so far, the original production was a bit more controversial. In a recent piece in The Guardian, which begins with "I lied to producer Cameron Mackintosh," playwright David Henry Hwang admits to being involved with the 'Yellow Face controvercy'.
After Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce was cast as the Engineer in the 1991 Broadway production, many protested the show because of yellow-face casting. Hwang writes: "I wrote a letter objecting to Pryce's casting. And, yes, I lied to Cameron Mackintosh. Back in 1991, during an angry lunch, Mackintosh accused me of stirring up trouble by leaking my letter to the press. Frightened and overwhelmed, I denied having done so. But the truth is, he was correct. I've never admitted this publicly, and now apologize to Cameron Mackintosh for my deception. It's interesting to look back, almost 25 years later, on the aftermath of the Saigon dispute."
Click here to read his full piece.
Hwang was awarded the 1988 Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and John Gassner Awards for his Broadway debut, M. Butterfly, which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His play Golden Child, which premiered at South Coast Repertory, received a 1998 Tony nomination and a 1997 OBIE Award. His new book for Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song earned him his third Tony nomination in 2003. Yellow Face won a 2008 OBIE Award for Playwriting and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent work, Chinglish, won a 2011 Chicago Jeff Award before moving to Broadway, where it received a 2012 Drama Desk Nomination.
Other plays include FOB (1981 OBIE Award), The Dance and the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Nomination), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Nomination), The Sound of a Voice and Bondage. He co-authored the book for Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, which ran almost five years on Broadway, and was the bookwriter of Disney's Tarzan, with songs by Phil Collins. As America's most-produced living opera librettist, he has written four works with composer Philip Glass, as well as Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), Bright Sheng's The Silver River (1997), and Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland (2007 "World Premiere of the Year" by Opernwelt Magazine). Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate, and Possession(co-writer), and co-wrote the song "Solo" with composer/performer Prince. He won the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre, the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, and is a 2013 US Artists Donnelly Fellow.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos