World Premiere of David Henry Hwang's 'Soft Power' This Month

May 10, 2018

Headshot of David Henry HwangFaculty member David Henry Hwang’s Soft Power will have its world premiere on May 16th at the Ahmanson Theater  in Los Angeles. The musical, a response to Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, has music by Adjunct Associate Professor and Tony Award-winner Jeanine Tesori and is directed by Adjunct Assistant Professor Leigh Silverman.


According to a recent New York Times article, David Henry Hwang started to work on Soft Power in 2014, when Michael Ritchie, the Artistic Director of the Center Theater Group, gave Mr. Hwang free rein to create a show for the 50th anniversary season of the group’s Mark Taper Forum in 2018. The idea for Soft Power started after David Henry Hwang saw a revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center “which got him thinking about how much he loved that classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (the songs, the story, the moment the king dies, which never failed to make him cry), and yet, how much he didn’t (the play’s history of showing a mostly white cast in yellowface, its implicit racism). How about a story that took all that and upended it?” the LA Times reported. In 2015, Mr. Hwang enlisted the help of Ms. Silverman and Ms. Tesori. They met up at Columbia. 

About a half mile east of the Ahmanson is the David Henry Hwang Theater, home of the East West Players, the nation’s longest-running Asian-American repertory company, which partnered with the Center Theater Group on the world premiere of Soft Power. "A contemporary comedy explodes into a musical fantasia in the first collaboration between two of America’s great theatre artists: Tony Award winners David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Flower Drum Song) and Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home). Soft Power rewinds our recent political history and plays it back through a Chinese lens: a future, beloved East-meets-West musical. A Chinese executive visiting America finds himself falling in love with a good-hearted US leader—Hillary Clinton—as the power balance between their two countries shifts following the 2016 election. As original as it is topical, Soft Power overflows with the romance, laughter, and cultural confusions of the golden age of Broadway. Hwang and Tesori have created one of the most eagerly anticipated new works of the year," according to the play's description. 


After the run at the Ahmanson, the creators will reconvene and make revisions before the show moves to the Curran Theater in San Francisco, with performances beginning June 20. "Naturally, Broadway is a possibility, but none of the creative team is looking that far ahead," according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re kind of looking at the finish line, but we’re not there yet, who knows what’s going to happen. One of the things that’s exciting and fun and scary about this point in the process is that it’s all wide open. Any ending to the story of this show is possible.” Hwang told the LA Times


Soft Power will run until June 10th. If you are on the West Coast, get your tickets here.