David Henry Hwang to Receive 2012 William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award

Posted by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang Photo by Lia Chang

Congratulations to playwright David Henry Hwang, who has been named the Honoree of the 31st Annual William Inge Theatre Festival, in Independence, Kansas, on the campus of Independence Community College.

Hwang will be at the Inge Festival from April 18-21, 2012. He joins the roster of internationally renowned playwrights who have traveled to the Inge Festival to receive the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award. This select list includes Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, and the most recent Honoree, Marsha Norman, to name just a few.

“David Henry Hwang brings a unique voice to the fabric of the American theatre,” said Peter Ellenstein, Inge Center Artistic Director. “Besides being a great dramatist, his work often gives voice to an Asian-American perspective that has been long left out of American culture.”

Hwang is also a librettist for musicals and operas, as well as a screenwriter. At the multi-media Tribute ceremony that concludes the Inge Festival, Hwang will accept the annual Inge Festival Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.

Since its founding in 1981, the William Inge Theatre Festival has celebrated the accomplishments of nationally renowned playwrights. It is the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas, located in the picturesque southeastern Kansas town of Independence (pop. 10,000), William Inge’s hometown. Inge, who passed away in 1973, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Picnic and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Splendor in the Grass.

Throughout his career, playwright David Henry Hwang has explored the complexities of forging Eastern and Western cultures in a contemporary America. His extraordinary body of work, over the past 30 years, has been marked by a deep desire to reaffirm the common humanity in all of us.

He is perhaps best known as the author of M. Butterfly, which won the 1988 Tony, Drama Desk and many other accolades, and also a finalist for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize.

His play Golden Child received three 1998 Tony Nominations, including Best New Play. His play, Yellow Face, which premiered at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum and New York’s Public Theater, won a 2008 Obie Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Hwang’s Broadway musicals include his new book for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, which earned him his third Tony nomination in 2003 for Best Book of a Musical. He co-wrote the book for Disney’s international hit Aida, with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, which won four 2000 Tony Awards and ran over four years on Broadway, and was the book writer of Disney’s Tarzan, with songs by Phil Collins.

Hwang’s other plays include FOB (1981 Obie Award), The Dance & the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Nomination, CINE Golden Eagle Award), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Nomination), The House of Sleeping Beauties (1983), The Sound of a Voice (1983), Bondage (1992), and Face Value (1993), among others.

According to Opera News, he is America’s most-produced living opera librettist, and has written four works with composer Philip Glass: 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (1988), The Voyage, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1992 and was revived there in 1996, and The Sound of a Voice at American Repertory Theatre in 2003, as well as Icarus at the Edge of Time, based on the book by theoretical physicist Brian Greene. The Silver River, with music by Bright Sheng, was produced at the 1998 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, 2000 Spoleto Festival USA and the 2002 Lincoln Center Festival. Ainadamar, with music by Osvaldo Golijov, starring soprano Dawn Upshaw, premiered at the Santa Fe Opera and Lincoln Center in 2006; the Deutsche Gramofone recording won two 2007 Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Composition. Alice in Wonderland, with music by Unsuk Chin, premiered at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and was named by OPERNWELT as 2007 “World Premiere of the Year.”

The Fly, an opera with music by Howard Shore, directed by David Cronenberg premiered in Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet in July 2008. Hwang also co-wrote the song “Solo,” released on the 1994 gold album Come by composer/performer Prince. He made his acting debut in the 2001 digital short Asian Pride Porn, directed by Greg Pak.

His newest play, Chinglish, which recently premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, will open on Broadway this fall. He is also Executive Producer of the feature film White Frog, directed by Quentin Lee, which is currently in production.

Hwang penned the screenplays for M. Butterfly, a 1993 Warner Brothers release starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone, directed by David Cronenberg; Golden Gate (Samuel Goldwyn Co., 1994), starring Matt Dillon and Joan Chen, directed by John Madden; The Lost Empire, a four-hour NBC television miniseries (Hallmark Entertainment, 2001); and Possession (co-writer, USA Films, 2002), starring Gwyneth Paltrow, directed by Neil LaBute.

He has also done screenwriting work for Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Tim Burton, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Michael Douglas, and Robin Williams, among others. He is currently writing Bob’s Gang, an original screenplay for director Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation).

Hwang has been awarded numerous prestigious grants, fellowships, and awards.

In 1998, the nation’s oldest Asian American theatre company, East West Players, christened its new main stage The David Henry Hwang Theatre. From 1994-2001, Hwang served by appointment of President Clinton on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

In June 2010, Mr. Hwang was named one of two Project Residents for the Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute. As part of his residency he was commissioned to write a play on the American colonial experience in the Philippines, which Arena Stage will coproduce with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

David Henry Hwang attended Stanford University and the Yale School of Drama, and holds honorary degrees from Columbia College, Chicago, The American Conservatory Theatre, and Lehigh University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, actress Kathryn Layng, and their children, Noah David and Eva Veanne.

The Inge Festival is a unique blend of Broadway and Hollywood sheen and hometown can-do spirit. Hundreds of community volunteers help provide hospitality to visiting guest artists, theater students, and theater buffs from across the nation. In addition to evening performances by professionals from Broadway and Hollywood, patrons enjoy workshops, panel discussions, a scholars’ conference and social events.

The William Inge Center for the Arts is a participant in the New Generations Program, funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theatre.

This program is presented in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes a great nation deserves great art.

Further major supporters of the William Inge Center for the Arts include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Theatre Communications Group, the Hallmark Corporation, the William Inge Festival Foundation, and Independence Community College.

The Inge Festival’s setting is the quaint small town of Independence, located in rural southeast Kansas. It is 90 miles north of Tulsa, Okla., and 140 miles south of Kansas City, Mo.

The Inge Festival is sponsored by the William Inge Center for the Arts, a year-round arts center at Independence Community College.

The college is also home to the William Inge Collection, which includes correspondence, original artwork, and some 400 manuscripts, as well as Inge’s personal book and record collections. During 2009, seven of the unpublished plays from the Collection were publicly performed for the first time, including one world premiere in New York. The Inge Collection at Independence Community College is the most extensive collection on William Inge in existence, and remains a valuable resource for both theater researchers and admirers of the playwright. The Inge Collection houses about 25 manuscripts by Inge that have not been published.

Thanks primarily to the work of longtime Tribute creator Mike Wood of Wichita State University, the Inge Center has amassed a vast collection of video interviews of America’s leading playwrights, composers, actors, directors, producers and other theatre professionals, gathered over the last three decades. A sampling of playwright interviews is available at www.ingecenter.org. The rest of the video collection is in the process of being digitally preserved for future generations.

Tickets for the 31st Annual William Inge Theatre Festival go on sale online in the spring of 2012. For further information, visit www.ingecenter.org or call (800) 842-6063 ext. 5492.

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