DAVID HENRY HWANG: When East And West Collide

DAVID HENRY HWANG proves bedfellows make strange politics in M. Butterfly, a surprise stage success on three continents

When David Henry Hwang was a student at Stanford University, he and fellow residents of the "Asian-American theme dorm" used to refer derisively to any female peer who seemed overly deferential, too traditionally feminine, as "doing a Butterfly." Hwang, for one, had no actual complaint against Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. In fact, he had never seen or even heard it. But what he had gleaned of the plot -- about a Japanese girl who kills herself for love of a faithless American sailor -- summed up for him many of the stereotypes Westerners imposed on Orientals. He and his ilk, he...

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