Stagecraft Podcast: Julie Taymor, David Henry Hwang Talk ‘M. Butterfly’ and Gender in 2017

Back in 1988, the Broadway play “M. Butterfly” played like “The Crying Game” — four years before the Neil Jordan film was even released.

In the original production, a lot of the impact turned on the gender reveal,” David Henry Hwang says in the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast. “But I began to realize that this particular surprise wouldn’t be as shocking 30 years later, because we understand and we’re exposed to many different gender expressions today.”

For the new production (now on Broadway) directed by Julie Taymor and starring Clive Owen, Hwang made some significant changes to the original script, incorporating new information about the true story that inspired the play, about a French diplomat’s romance with a mysterious Chinese opera performer. The new production also adjusts the reveal that — spoiler alert — the performer is a man.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s not a surprise at the end anymore,'” says Taymor. “It’s not supposed to be a surprise at the end! You know right at the beginning. Ultimately, that’s not even the point.”

Taymor and Hwang add that they auditioned gender-nonconforming actors and a woman for the role that was originated by B.D. Wong and is played in the new production by Jin Ha.

The duo also talk about the new production’s arresting visual design, plus how you stage a play with 37 scene changes and the things theater does best — before turning to “The Lion King,” the Taymor-directed smash that recently celebrated its 20th birthday.

A Mandarin-language production recently opened in China — which necessitated some contextual changes in tone and dialect. As Taymor notes: “You can’t just have Borscht belt humor show up in Shanghai!”

Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

More Legit

  • The Kilroys The List

    Listen: New List, New Leaders as the Kilroys Push for Parity

    The collective of writers and producers known as the Kilroys has been pushing for gender parity in the theater for five years now. With the launch last week of the latest edition of the List — the group’s annual round-up (inspired by Hollywood’s Black List) of plays by women, trans and non-binary writers — members [...]

  • Annette Bening

    Star-Studded Cast to Perform Live Reading of the Mueller Report

    Haven’t perused the Mueller report yet? A star-studded cast, including Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, and John Lithgow, can read it to you. For one night only on Monday, June 24, stars will perform a live reading of passages from the Mueller report for “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts,” Robert Schenkkan’s [...]

  • Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to

    Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to Be This Timely

    When Paula Vogel began writing “Indecent” in 2010, she had no idea how resonant its exploration of immigration woes, anti-Semitism and homophobia in the past century would become in the current political climate. The Tony-nominated play, running until July 7 at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater, traces the theatrical history of 1907 Yiddish play “God of Vengeance” [...]

  • Bitter Wheat review

    West End Review: John Malkovich in David Mamet's 'Bitter Wheat'

    How soon is too soon? Hardly a year had passed since allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public before David Mamet announced that his satire on the subject, “Bitter Wheat,” was set to star John Malkovich in the West End. Six months later, we’re sat watching a corpulent, super-rich movie mogul — Barney Fein (cough, [...]

  • Batman Julia Roberts Spike Lee

    Batman, Julia Roberts, Spike Lee Among 2020 Walk of Fame Honorees

    Batman, Julia Roberts and Spike Lee are among the names selected to be inducted into the 2020 Walk of Fame. The full list of honorees was announced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Fame Selection Committee via an exclusive livestream by Variety. Chosen from hundreds of nominees during a selection meeting in June, [...]

  • Tracy Letts

    Tracy Letts' Comedy 'The Minutes' to Hit Broadway in 2020

    Playwright Tracy Letts’ comedy “The Minutes” will hit the Broadway stage in Feb. 2020. “The Minutes,” written by actor, producer and playwright Letts, is a comedy taking a look at the current state of American politics through the lens of a small, fictional town called Big Cherry. The play is set in a city council [...]

  • Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer

    Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer of MWM Live (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Forshaw has been named executive producer of MWM Live, Variety has learned. The theater veteran most recently served as VP of production for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. In his new role, he will oversee MWM Live’s slate of stage productions with an emphasis on expanding the division’s work on Broadway. MWM Live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content