Today, as Berkeley Repertory Theatre holds its final rehearsal for the West Coast premiere of Chinglishand prepares this production for a trip to Hong Kong, the show's celebrated author has earned another honor. The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust announced this morning that David Henry Hwang will receive the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, a biennial prize that recognizes and encourages the artistic excellence and achievement of an American playwright whose body of work has made significant contributions to the American theatre.
In a ceremony on October 29 at the Lincoln Center Theatre, Hwang will be presented with a cash award of $200,000 along with "The Mimi," a statuette designed by Tony Award-nominated scenic designer and architect David Rockwell. The only previous winners of this prominent prize are Tony Kushner and Lynn Nottage.
"I've been very fortunate to have found something I wanted to do with my life, and a place in the American theatre," Hwang comments. "Receiving the Mimi Award is an extravagant blessing, which overwhelms me with gratitude. Since learning the news, I've been able to turn down some commercial media work to focus on my Theatre Projects. My deep thanks to the Steinberg Trust and board for its visionary support of American Playwrights, and to the advisory committee, who saw fit to include me among the extraordinary dramatists who have received this life-changing gift."
"The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust is extremely proud of the selection of David Henry Hwang as the recipient of this year's Distinguished Playwright Award," says Jim Steinberg, a member of the Trust's board of directors. "For 32 years, Mr. Hwang has written thoughtful, provocative plays that have engaged and challenged audiences throughout the world. The breadth of his canon – encompassing not only dramatic works, but also musical theatre, children's theatre, and opera – has placed him at the apogee of a career in the theatre. We look forward to seeing many new works by Mr. Hwang in the years to come."
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust is led by a board of directors that includes Carole A. Krumland, James D. Steinberg, Michael A. Steinberg, Seth M. Weingarten, and William D. Zabel.In 2008, the board established an advisory committee of respected theatre professionals responsible for establishing the criteria for the Steinberg Playwright Awards, as well as the nomination and selection processes. The 2012 Advisory Committee includes four continuing members: Susan Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theater; Jeremy Cohen, producing artistic director at the Playwrights' Center; Todd London, artistic director of New Dramatists; and Lynne Meadow, artistic director of Manhattan Theater Club. This year there are three new members as well: Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Centerstage; Bill Rauch, artistic director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Neil Pepe, artistic director of Atlantic Theater Company. This committee elected to honor Hwang for his extraordinary artistic achievement.
"I have been dazzled by David Henry Hwang's work ever since I saw M. Butterfly in 1988," Meadow remarks. "Mr. Hwang 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. As he has wrestled with questions of identity – cultural, sexual, and racial – he has given us memorable and thrilling and challenging evenings in the theatre. I am thrilled that the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award has been awarded to him in recognition of his past accomplishments and in anticipation of more major works to come."