Idees, Pensee, Muses sur la musique & theatre

Category Archives: Theater

Asia Society has invited the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe for two performances of “The Lanke Mountain”. This piece is not performed often. All the more reason to see it! The story follows the heroine, Cui, who divorces her husband and then attempts to reunite with him when he becomes financially successful. What a revolutionary-minded gal!

Kunqu was developed during the late Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), and is said to have evolved from theatrical forms that go back to the third century B.C. Kunqu’s emergence ushered in a golden age of Chinese drama in which it dominated Chinese theatre from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

Kunqu is known for its elegant performing style. In Kunqu, music, dance and acting are all integrated into a seamless and fluid performance. Most of the popular pieces in the Kungqu repertory are love stories. But The Lanke Mountain is a “moral tale featuring slapstick comedy,” which adds another incentive to see it.


Details of David Henry Hwang’s Artist-in-Residence at the Signature Theater have surfaced. There will be three plays, including the world premier of Kung Fu, inspired by the life of Bruce Lee, about a young martial artist who comes to America from Hong Kong in the 1960s dreaming to be a movie star.

Hwang had been writing the book for a musical about Lee, but a spokesman for Signature said that Kung Fu was not the same project and that Hwang was no longer involved in that musical. (Hwang has yet to decide if the main character in Kung Fu will be named Bruce Lee.)

Leigh Silverman, who staged Chinglish on Broadway last fall, will direct Kung Fu as well as a revival of Golden Child, which ran on Broadway in 1998. In February 2013 the director May Adrales will mount his 1981 play The Dance and the Railroad.

So, no revival of M Butterfly. Does it mean he’s saving it for the long rumored Broadway revival?


It has been reported that Justin Lin will direct the film version of David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish, the recent Broadway comedy about an Ohio businessman navigating misunderstandings of language and etiquette in a second-tier Chinese city.

This is interesting. Lin is one of the few Asian American directors who have successfully broken into the Hollywood system. He is a friend of David Henry Hwang, who is a contributing writer of Lin’s blog www.YouOffendMeYouOffendMyFamily.com. But since his breakout Better Luck Tomorrow in 2002, Lin has mostly directed the Fast & Furious series, which, despite their ridiculous storylines, are not comedies. So how will Lin handle a story where most actions happen inside characters’ minds? How will Lin handle the story where intrigues and conflicts are resolved with words, not engines and horsepower?

To add to the intrigue is the similarities between the Chinglish plot and the current political scandal in China. Will Hwang milk this point in the screenplay he will adapt himself? If they were to film it in China, will China allow it?


This is the poster of one of the most popular recent restagings of "The Peony Pavilion".

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it will present a new version of The Peony Pavilion at its Astor Court in November and December. It will be a contemporary adaption of the 16th-century Kunqu opera masterpiece. The new version will be by composer Tan Dun and choreographer Huang Doudou. Tan’s new score, which recalls the style and themes of traditional Kunqu music, will be performed by a traditional Kunqu ensemble of four musicians, and will include taped elements.

The Peony Pavilion has become the Chinese Romeo and Juliet: readapted and reinterpreted by later artists over and over again. What’s the appeal? The story of The Peony Pavilion really stretches credibility – the heroine meets the hero in her dream, she then dies of lovesickness and appears in his dream to ask him for help to return her to life. I doubt even the most dreamy teenagers will ever imagine that to happen in real life.

But the lyrics belong to the best of Chinese literatures. The music and movement represent the pinnacle of Chinese theater art. As they say “Good artists borrow; Great artists steal.” So many artists have found something to borrow or steal from this great source of material. In this case, there’s also the benefit that, although many people have heard of the name “The Peony Pavilion”, most people have not seen a traditional staging of it. So whether it’s borrowed or stolen, most audience won’t be able to tell!


According to Broadway.com:

The Signature Theatre Company will spotlight Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang as the Residency One Playwright for its 2012-2013 season. Hwang will follow Athol Fugard as the second Residency One Playwright at Signature’s new Pershing Square Signature Center. The company will produce a series of his works throughout the year. Titles, dates, casting and creative team details for the Hwang series will be announced at a later date.

“I have been looking forward to a season of David Henry Hwang’s work for a long time and I am thrilled that he will be Signature’s 2012-2013 Residency One Playwright,” said Signature’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton in a statement. “For over thirty years, David’s plays have tackled critical issues of identity, legacy, and the global community with incredible insight and great humor. We are honored to have David join the company and to produce three of his extraordinary plays.”

So, are we going to see M. Butterfly? Could it be a tryout for a Broadway revivial? Who will play Song Liling? Let the guessing game begin!


The New York Times reported that composer Timothy Huang’s musical The Cost of Living has been selected as a finalist for the American Harmony Prize. The musical is based on an actual story that happened in 2009 when two immigrant cabdrivers whose taxi-sharing partnership ended with one attacking the other with a meat cleaver and then jumping to his death from the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

In the real-life scenario, the two cabbies were Nepali immigrants. Huang changed them to Chinese to reflect his own background.

Taxi drivers lead a life that involves sitting in a confined space circling New York streets for long hours. I’d say plenty of time for reminiscing in songs. But how is he going to make them dance? And how is the final confrontation to be staged? A la West Side Story? It sounds interesting. I wish I could see it.


David Henry Hwang, whose latest play Chinglish has just been nominated for five Joseph Jefferson Awards, will give a talk tomorrow at Columbia University. The talk is organized by the Columbia University Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

Most people agree that the Chinglish run on Broadway was too short. Some people think this is an Off-Broadway show that should not have gone to the Broadway. But would it have the kind of mainstream publicity if it were not a Broadway production? Would the average theater goers ever even notice this show if it were not on Broadway? My guess is that the number of audience who saw it during its less-than-spectacular Broadway run is still larger than what that number would be even if it had a very successful Off-Broadway run. Well, we can now hear what David Henry Hwang thinks.