AAST Goes to M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly is a play by David Henry Hwang loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a male Peking opera singer. The play premiered on Broadway in 1988 and won several Tony awards including Best Play and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (B.D. Wong).

M. Butterfly is regularly taught in Asian American studies and Theater courses, and in courses that explore race, gender, and sexuality in U.S. and global contexts. Lecturer Terry Park recently led a trip to Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre to view the play. Everyman’s production of M. Butterfly, timed with the play’s 30th anniversary and its return to Broadway this October in a revised production, is directed by Vincent M. Lancisi and stars Asian American actor Vincent Chum as Song Liling.

From Terry Park:

“I first encountered the play at Vassar College, and went on to perform as one of the lead actors in Vassar productions of two other plays by Hwang–Bondage and Trying to Find Chinatown. When I entered academia and received the opportunity to teach my own Asian American studies courses, I taught M. Butterfly in a diverse range of institutions from San Quentin State Prison to Harvard University and now, UMD. When a former student of mine from Miami University who now lives in Baltimore told me that M. Butterfly was going to be staged in Baltimore at Everyman, I decided to try to get my Introduction to Asian American Studies students to see the play, even though I had just moved to Baltimore and hadn’t even started my position as a new PTK faculty member of AAST, UMD.

I have had success fundraising for various projects and organizations, including raising over $12,000 for the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center this past spring as part of their Boston Marathon fundraising team (it was the most that any single runner has every raised in the history of BCNC’s participation in the Boston Marathon). So, first, I posted on my Facebook asking if anyone could help connect me with Hwang himself. My friend, famed spoken word poet and actor Beau Sia, connected me with Hwang. I told Hwang about my plan, and he said he would be happy to support. At the same time, a friend of mine, Janet S. Kim, who directed my 2005 off-off-Broadway solo show 38th Parallels, called me and said she’d like to donate $300.

I then contacted Everyman, let then know that I wanted to bring my Intro to Asian American Studies students to see M. Butterfly, and asked about the possibility of discounted group tickets. They offered tickets for their Sunday, September 17 show for all of my 40 students and myself at a discounted rate of $10 per ticket. So I posted on my Facebook again, announcing Hwang’s and Kim’s generous support, as well as Everyman’s generous offer of discounted tickets, and asked for support to cover the costs of the tickets and transportation.

Within the hour, I received donation pledges from 9 other people. Along with a friend of mine who I reached out to personally via email, and Phil Nash, who heard about my plan and stopped by my office and wrote a check on the spot, the estimated costs were completely covered. In total, I raised almost $900 ($895) in about 1 day. On Sunday, Sept 17, the chartered DOTS bus picked up most of my 39 Intro to Asian American Studies students from Stamp and drove to Baltimore. A student that I sat next to told me that she grew up in Baltimore but never knew about Everyman Theatre, so she was very appreciative of the opportunity to see a play performed by professional actors in her hometown.”

A special thank you to all of the donors for their generous support in making this memorable experience possible for our students.