Associate Professor David Henry Hwang’s 'An American Soldier' Premieres to Much Acclaim

July 2, 2018

Headshot of David Henry HwangAn American Soldier, an opera written and composed by Associate Professor and Playwriting Concentration Head David Henry Hwang, premiered to much acclaim at the Opera Theater of St. Louis last month. An American Soldier is based on the true story of nineteen-year-old Private Danny Chen. Chen committed suicide at an army outpost in Afghanistan after being the victim of racist hazing. 


According to critic Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times, Hwang successfully “[turned] what was a 60-minute chamber opera — seen in Washington, D.C., in 2014 — into a richly orchestrated two-hour work...the creators explore the complexities of Private Chen’s life and death, the tragic tale of a young Chinese-American man who just wanted to prove he was, as he sings, a “real American, an American soldier.””


Associate Professor Hwang is a renown playwright, screenwriter, television writer, and librettist. His play, M. Butterfly, won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play, and was revived on Broadway in 2017. Hwang’s other stage works include Chinglish, Yellow Face, Kung Fu, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, among many others. Hwang has also collaborated with artists such as Elton John and Prince on musicals and librettos. For his numerous works, Hwang has received an OBIE, two Grammy Awards, and has been a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Additionally, Hwang is the primary Writer and Consulting Producer for the Golden-Globe winning show, The Affair, which is currently in its fourth season. Hwang spoke about writing for television in an interview: “At the moment there’s an incredible overlap between TV writing and playwriting. Almost every playwright I can think of who is under 40 who has had productions and has had some success is working in television. There’s a huge need for writers.”


At Columbia University, Professor Hwang teaches graduate classes such as Play Rewriting and Development, Collaboration, Professional Practice, and Independent Studies.