Faculty Members Hilton Als, David Henry Hwang, and Ralph Lemon Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Amanda Breen
April 29, 2021

Associate Professor of Writing Hilton Als, Associate Professor of Theatre David Henry Hwang, and Visual Arts Mentor Ralph Lemon were among those elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2021. 

Academy President David W. Oxtoby and Chair of the Board of Directors Nancy C. Andrews announced that more than 250 outstanding individuals were selected this year. There are five classes members belong to: Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Biological Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Humanities and Arts; and Leadership, Policy, and Communications. 

Within the Humanities and Arts class, Als and Lemon were elected for the Performing Arts specialty, and Hwang was elected for the Literature specialty. 

“Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together ‘to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people,’” the mission on the organization’s website states. 

Als is the recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He began contributing to The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” series in 1989, became a staff writer for the publication in 1994, and a theatre critic there in 2002. Prior to his time at The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for The Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. His work has also appeared in The Nation, and he has collaborated on film scripts for Swoon and Looking for Langston

Als’s first book The Women, which examines gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. His most recent book White Girls, which explores various narratives around race and gender, was published in 2013. The New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment in 1997. In 2000, he was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing. He also received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002—2003.

Hwang’s works for stage include M. ButterflyChinglishYellow FaceKung FuGolden ChildThe Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Disney’s Tarzan. He was a Writer and Consulting Producer for the Golden Globe-winning television series The Affair. His screenplays include PossessionM. Butterfly, and Golden Gate

Hwang is a Tony Award winner and three-time nominee, a three-time OBIE Award winner, and a three-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. He’s the recipient of two GRAMMY Awards, and he co-wrote the Gold Record Solo with the late pop star Prince. Currently, he serves as Chair of the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tony Awards and presents the OBIE Awards.

Lemon is a choreographer, writer, visual artist, and curator. He is the Artistic Director of Cross Performance, which is committed to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. Some of his recent works include Scaffold Room (2015); Four Walls (2012); and How Can You Stay in The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? (2008—2010), which was a work with live performance, film, and visual art that toured in the US. 

Lemon’s awards include one of the first Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards (2012), the United States Artists Fellowship (2006), three "Bessie" Awards (1986, 2005, 2016), two Foundation for Contemporary Art Awards (1986, 2012), two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships (2004, 2009), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), a Bellagio Study Center Fellowship (2004), and the CalArts Alpert Award (1999). In 2016, he was short-listed for the Guggenheim Hugo Boss Prize, and in 2015, he was awarded a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.