Hogging the Tony Winner


"You hogged him all night," observed Fernando.  Yes, I did.  After Monday's rehearsal, I unabashedly pelted David Henry Hwang (DHH) with question after question.  Although it seemed so natural and easy at the time, the light of day brought forth my familiar self-consciousness.  My Korean father always reminds me that I talk too much, and his voice arose again.  Oh dear, I thought after hearing Fernando.  Maybe I did it again.  Maybe I just talked too much.

But a curious soul lives in the Question and perpetually delights in the Answer.  And so, here were some of the reasons I kept asking, commenting, postulating, offering ... that is, talking ... to DHH over tater tots and Stella Artois.

I can't even remember my first question.  The chronology is obscured by adrenaline and the sheer volume of material.  So in this entry, I'll begin with the first page of the script -- the dedication page which names Sam Shepard.  How did that come about?

The news-clip version is that DHH was in a play-writing workshop of Shepard's when the idea of "Family Devotions" (FD) came to him.  The juicy morsel, however, is this.  DHH, like Chester in FD, was a violinist.  One day during the workshop, he was practicing in the woods when Shepard heard him.  Shepard then asked DHH to provide music for one of his plays which was being "produced" at this workshop.  Since DHH was able to improvise on the violin, he agreed and went on to underscore Shepard's piece.

I observed that most Asians do not improvise on instruments.  We are largely classically trained, and in the music world, we are known as "readers."  He agreed and stated that his sister, who played cello, fell into the category of readers.  He, however, discovered that he was better at improvising than at executing music.  How interesting, I thought, that he was willing to display his improvised musical voice.  We, of the second-generation, are programmed to obey, not think independently.  Improvisation takes a willingness to "make something up," to be unique, to produce an unfettered sound.  He agreed with my general idea and then embarked on one of the most moving moments of the evening.  It makes sense, he stated, that he became a playwright -- someone who develops their own personal voice.  Wow -- even celebrities can see the seeds of themselves.

On the other hand, since I, at my ripe age, am only now starting to own my voice ... perhaps it makes sense that I live under the canopy of another's words.  But I digress from DHH.  That is another story for a different day.  Back to Monday night at O'Malley's.

What else?  Ah, the hour is late, and my memories are melting together.  I do remember pondering the differences between a playwright's voice in the theater, on TV and in a musical.  We honored the beauty of "Love, Look Away" in "Flower Drum Song."  I asked about his mother.  I offered my own theory as to why his grandmother dies in so many of his plays.  Only snippets are coming to me now:  China and Broadway, pets in FD and his own house,  the shelter that a wife can take in her husband, the ferocity of the voice of 20-something Asian-Americans, Korean-American playwrights, the effects of geography on Far East Asian psychology, and the poignancy of the desire to assimilate as reflected in "Chinglish."

Perhaps I did hog the playwright.  If so, please see this blog as my apology.  Use this entry as a means to elbow your way into the conversation.  I promise now to sit back now, and listen.