Julie Taymor to Direct, Clive Owen to Star in David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly

February 7, 2017

Faculty member, David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfly will return to Broadway this fall, directed by Julie Taymor and starring Clive Owen.
Hwang’s play is based on the bizarre true story of a French diplomat who engaged in a twenty-year affair with a Chinese opera singer without realizing that his lover was male. The confusion was revealed publically, alongside the fact that the opera singer was actually a Chinese spy who had been gathering information throughout their affair.
“Instead of reducing the world to an easily digested cluster of sexual or familial relationships, Mr. Hwang cracks open a liaison to reveal a sweeping, universal meditation on two of the most heated conflicts - men versus women, East versus West - of this or any other time,” wrote the New York Times at the play’s debut in 1988.
For the revival, Hwang is revising the script to reflect both contemporary discussions about gender and sexuality and also new discoveries about the scandal. In addition to the historical references, the play is also in conversation with Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, which tells the story of a U.S. Naval officer’s relationship with a Japanese woman.
“I knew [Puccini’s] Butterfly only as a cultural stereotype,” Hwang wrote in his afterword to the play, describing the original spark for the story. “Yet, I felt convinced that the libretto would include yet another lotus blossom pining away for a cruel Caucasian man… Sure enough, when I purchased the record, I discovered it contained a wealth of sexist and racist clichés, reaffirming my faith in Western Culture.”
The revival will open in October of 2017, with Owen starring as the fictionalized French diplomat, Rene Gallimard. The other lead of the singer, Song Liling, has yet to be cast. On screen, Owen’s credits include Children of MenCloser, and the television show The KnickM. Butterfly will be Owen’s second appearance on Broadway, following a “skilled and charismatic” (New York Times) performance in the 2015 revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times.
Taymor garnered international acclaim with her Broadway production of The Lion King, which was the most successful theatrical production of all time as of 2015. “The theater becomes alive with familiar creatures of dreamlike beauty, ostentatiously unreal and absolutely authentic,” wrote The New York Times when the show opened in 1997. More recently, she has brought her lush visual imagination and precise staging to productions including Grounded, starring Anne Hathaway, at the Public Theater and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Theater for a New Audience

More information on the show’s production and performance dates coming soon.