When M. Butterfly premiered on Broadway in 1988, audiences were stunned to discover that the central character, Song Liling, was actually a man. Nearly 30 years later, as the revival runs at the Cort Theatre, the cat is out of the bag.
The story of M. Butterfly, which won three Tony Awards including Best Play, is now more well known than the real-life story it was based on — the affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Peking opera singer Shi Pei Pu. The culture has also progressed, and with it our language and sensitivity surrounding gender identity: The reveal of a character’s gender as a surprise twist, once a feature of M. Butterfly, now seems like a dangerously regressive relic.
That’s something playwright David Henry Hwang was well-aware of when he set about revising his play for a new production directed by Julie Taymor. In revisiting his seminal work, Hwang undertook a heavy rewrite, one in which Song’s gender is addressed early on — and the themes of toxic masculinity and Asian gender stereotypes are as clear as ever.
Read the full story at Buzzfeed.
A rare species of theatrical achievement can be discovered in New York City this month by the most intrepid of audience members. On Friday, November 17, spectators at the Metropolitan Opera will see one of the most popular operas ever written: Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. A day later, on November 18, the same viewers can watch two Broadway shows, back-to-back, that are inspired by this foundational work: David Henry Hwang's Tony-winning drama M. Butterfly and Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's musical Miss Saigon.
Read the full story at Theatremania.com
Nearly 30 years after its debut, M. Butterfly is back: A new revival, featuring an updated script by Hwang and direction from Julie Taymor, debuted on Broadway on Thursday. Though much of the story remains the same, the America of 2017 — one in which Donald Trump is president and conversations about race and ethnic identity dominate the national discourse — has changed. So, too, has the world, one in which China's ascendance to superpower status was scarcely assured in 1988.
Asia Blog recently caught up with Hwang to talk gender, ethnic identity, and explore why the election of President Trump has given M. Butterfly fresh relevance.
Read the interview at asiasociety.org.
The New York Theatre Guide recently caught up with Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Clive Owen. The British actor is currently starring as Rene Gallimard in the first-ever Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfly, directed with a stylized, Brechtian touch by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor. Mr. Owen made his Broadway debut in September 2015 as Deeley in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times at the American Airlines Theatre. We were curious to find out what keeps bringing him back to the stage and how he developed the intimate connection with his co-star Jin Ha...
Read the interview at NewYorkTheatreGuide.com
Frank H. Wu, Contributor
Author, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White
"Playwright David Henry Hwang is not aware of this, but as a journalist I have long looked up to him as an older brother type figure. That would be appropriate in the Chinese culture from which we both are descended, and even in the American culture to which each of us has assimilated. He is not only a bona fide writer; he is a commercially successful one. Hwang’s big hit, M. Butterfly, has been revived on Broadway with a touched-up script, directed by Julie Taymor of Lion King fame and Spiderman infamy, starring Clive Owen, the cerebral action hero in movies such as Children of Men and the BMW short ads. I saw it immediately, and I was impressed. What follows is an appreciation, not a proper review. Hwang and I have had maybe a half-dozen conversations since as a student a decade younger I invited him to speak on campus, and he told me as I drove him from the airport that his parents had wanted him to become a lawyer. We are friendly enough I would not presume to evaluate his work. His achievement deserves admiration though: he has expressed what many of us have thought halfway but not been able to put into words clearly. There is nobody else doing what he does."
Read the full article at Huffingtonpost.com
M. Butterfly has transformed for a new generation.
The first major New York revival of the Tony-winning play stars Clive Owen as a married French diplomat who has a 20-year relationship with a beautiful opera performer who spies on him for the Chinese government. Directed by Julie Taymor, the staging has an updated script by original playwright David Henry Hwang.
“It’s an amazing play, but it was written 30 years ago and things have changed,” Clive Owen told The Hollywood Reporter after Thursday’s opening night performance at the Cort Theatre. “It’s still a story about two people who created a world for themselves that worked for them, and when it became public, everything came crashing down and they were vilified. The heart of the play is still there — it had a huge impact and hopefully it still will.”
Read more at Hollywoodreporter.com
There are Broadway debuts, and then there are Broadway debuts that merit their own reaction GIF. Enter Jin Ha. Two years ago, he was studying acting at NYU, and now he’s been chosen by Julie Taymor to star in her revival of M. Butterfly, one of the most anticipated shows of the year.
“Trust me, it’s unbelievable,” says Ha, sitting at a French bistro in Manhattan’s theater district. “If I were to hear this third-person, I’d be like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ "
Read more at Out.com
"Nearly 30 years later, after turning down various offers to revive it, Hwang has updated the script, and a new production — directed by Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”) and starring Clive Owen as the diplomat, Gallimard — will open at the Cort Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 26."
Read more at Newsday.com
"The succès de scandale of the 1988–89 Broadway season, David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly tells of a French diplomat whose politically ill-advised affair with an androgynous performer in the Chinese opera takes him places he never imagined, including prison. Deftly exploring Western stereotyping of Asians, M. Butterfly won the 1988 Tony Award for best play and ran for an astonishing 777 performances."
Read more at Vanityfair.com