I caught up with musicologist Joanna C. Lee and veteran music journalist Ken Smith at the Longacre Theatre in New York, after the post-show talkback following the 100th performance of Chinglish, by Tony Award-winning and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright David Henry Hwang, which was recently named by TIME Magazine, Bloomberg Radio, NY1 and WNYC as one of the Top 10 Broadway shows of the year.
Smith and Lee were tapped as cultural advisors by the playwright when Chinglish, his play about an American businessman looking to land a deal in provincial China, had its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Smith writes about their participation as resident Chinglish cultural advisors here.
The husband and wife team are co-authors of the Pocket Chinese Almanac and co-directors of Museworks Ltd., a Hong Kong-based cultural consulting company offering wide-ranging support, from production to translation and media services, for artists and institutions seeking links to and from Asia. Their clients include Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, Holland Festival, Habitat for Humanity, the Hong Kong International Film Festival and Sotheby’s HK.
Lee, a pianist with a doctorate in musicology from Columbia University, was an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre for Asian Studies, Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Smith has covered arts and culture in Asia for the Financial Times since 2003. He is the author of Fate! Luck! Chance! Amy Tan, Stewart Wallace and the Making of The Bonesetter’s Daughter Opera. For the past seven years, he has served as advisor to the Western China Cultural Ecology Research Workshop, an NGO actively devoted to cultural preservation based in Guizhou province.
Goodman associate producer Steve Scott wrote an article entitled, “The Challenges of Chinglish,” that detailed Lee and Smith’s integral and invaluable contributions.
“Finally, to ensure that the complex social interactions of the play adhere to the rather more formal rules observed in China, consultants Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith became crucial members of the Chinglish production team. As the production’s “cultural consultants,” Lee and Smith were invaluable to the accurate creation of the world of Guiyang, China, and its inhabitants.
After a sold-out extended run at the Goodman Theatre last July, Chinglish, featuring Jennifer Lim, Gary Wilmes, Angela Lin, Christine Lin, Stephen Pucci, Johnny Wu and Larry Lei Zhang, opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on October 27, 2011. Hwang received Chicago’s 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Play.
Meet Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith in Ann Arbor, Michigan, San Francisco, CA and in New York as they make a number of personal appearances for their Pocket Chinese Almanac 2012, and with Chinglish playwright David Henry Hwang.
On Friday, January 13, 2012, the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan is presenting CHINGLISH: A New Comedy on the Misadventures of Cross-cultural Communication, at the Michigan League – Vandenberg Room, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 4pm-5:30pm. Playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) will discuss his latest Broadway hit, with Joanna C. Lee and Kenneth Smith. Free and open to the public. All are invited to a reception following the talk.
NEW YORK, NY
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
On Thursday, January 26, 2012, the co-authors will talk about the Pocket Chinese Almanac 2012, The Pocket Confucius, and The Pocket Tao at Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building in San Francisco at 6 p.m. Lee and Smith will translate and decode predictions for 2012. They’ll also dig beneath both the pop philosophy of Confucius and the scholarly interpretations to rediscover what the Master actually said about moral character and social order.
NEW YORK, NY
On Monday, February 6, 2012, Ken Smith will moderate Understanding the Real China, a panel discussion featuring Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz (Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy), playwright David Henry Hwang (Chinglish) and author Michael Levy (Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching and Eating with China’s Other Billion), who will explore China’s present complications and future possibilities, from the vantage point of provinces that have been slow to benefit from China’s economic miracle, at the 92YTribeca MAINSTAGE, 200 Hudson Street in New York at 7pm. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
About the Panelists
Joseph Stiglitz is a University Professor at Columbia University, the winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and a lead author of the 1995 IPCC report, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton and chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank for 1997-2000. Stiglitz received the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded biennially to the American economist under 40 who has made the most significant contribution to the subject. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge University, held the Drummond Professorship at All Souls College Oxford and has also taught at M.I.T, Yale, Stanford and Princeton.
David Henry Hwang’s work includes the plays M. Butterfly, Golden Child, Yellow Face and FOB; opera libretti for Philip Glass’s The Voyage, Osvaldo Golijov’ Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards) and Bright Sheng’s The Silver River; and screenplays for the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate and Possession. A Tony Award winner (and three-time nominee), Hwang is a three-time OBIE Award winner and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. His newest play, Chinglish, about an American businessman looking to land a deal in provincial China, received Chicago’s 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Play and is currently running on Broadway.
Mike Levy is the author of Kosher Chinese, his account of his tenure in the Peace Corps in Guizhou province.