David Henry Hwang has received the $200,000 Steinberg Award for playwriting, the largest monetary prize in American theater.
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust cited Hwang’s 32-year career writing satires and dramas that brought Asian and Asian American characters to Broadway and other stages, including his breakout hit, “M. Butterfly.”
Hwang, 55, told the New York Times that the award affords him the luxury to focus on stage work rather than pursuing (perhaps more lucrative) film and TV credits.
“This award literally buys me time to focus mostly on my theater work,” he said. “Even if you’re lucky to have a play on Broadway, like ‘Chinglish,’ you don’t necessarily earn enough off it to support the years it takes to get there.”
Hwang said he earned about $66,000 for his work on “Chinglish,” which had a three-month Broadway run last fall, and “Yellow Face,” a 2008 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Hwang’s current projects include a possible revival of “M. Butterfly” in London and on Broadway, and “Kung Fu,” an upcoming off-Broadway production inspired by the life of actor and martial artist Bruce Lee.
Off stage, Hwang is penning an screen adaption of “Chinglish,” his comedy about the lost-in-translation business ventures between China and the U.S. The stage version will have its Southern California debut at South Coast Repertory Theater Jan. 25–Feb 24.
The Steinberg Award is presented biennially to emerging and established playwrights; prior winners include Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) and Lynn Nottage (“Ruined”).