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David Henry Hwang Wins $200,000 Playwriting Prize

originally posted by the Los Angeles Times
08-23-2012

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.

The Tony Award-winning playwright announced on Twitter Wednesday: “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to receive the 2012 Steinberg “Mimi” Award. It’s a life-changing gift.”

Life-changing indeed. The award, which carries a $200,000 prize — the largest for theater, is presented every other year by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust “to honor and encourage the artistic excellence and achievement of an American playwright whose body of work has made significant contributions to the American theater.”

The trust made the official announcement on Thursday.

Hwang received the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play for “M. Butterfly,” which also was a finalist for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The following year, he was nominated for a Best Play Tony for “Golden Child,” and in 2003 received his third Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical for “Flower Drum Song.”

In 2008, he was again a finalist for the Pulitzer with his play, “Yellow Face.” Hwang also wrote the book for the Disney’s musicals “Aida” and “Tarzan.” He has also been a frequent collaborator with Philip Glass on operas. His last production on Broadway was this year’s “Chinglish.”

Hwang is currently Residence One Playwright at New York’s Signature Theatre, which will produce three of his plays, including his latest, “Kung Fu.”

“Mr. Hwang’s work has chronicled the Asian American experience with depth and insight and humor in a body of work that finds a common humanity in the status of all of us,” Steinberg advisory committee member Lynne Meadow said in a statement.

Past recipients are Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) and Lynn Nottage (“Ruined”).

The award will be presented Oct. 29 at Lincoln Center.

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