Chinglish Playwright David Henry Hwang on Bringing Mandarin to Broadway, Growing Up Chinese-American, and Translation Fails

David Henry Hwang LARK Celebrates KATORI HALL & SANDI GOFF FARKAS Lark Play Development Center, NYC • October 11, 2011

Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang is returning to Broadway with his poignant comedy Chinglish, which opens tonight at the Longacre Theater. The play, directed by Leigh Silverman, tells the story of an American businessman named Daniel (Gary Wilmes) who travels to a provincial capital in China to try to revive his family’s business by arranging contracts to make English-language signs. Despite his ignorance of Mandarin, he ends up in a hilariously confusing extramarital affair with Xi Yan (Jennifer Lim), the city’s vice minister of culture. Linguistic mix-ups are just the tip of the iceberg, as the characters stumble over their culturally bound assumptions about everything from romance to finance. Vulture spoke with Hwang about bringing Mandarin to Broadway, growing up Chinese-American, and the sorts of ludicrous translations that, in part, inspired the play.

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