Are You My Butterfly? Asian Femininity on Yesterday and Today?s American Stage
Thirty years ago, the original production of David Henry Hwang?s M. Butterfly won a Tony award for best play. The story was revolutionary in subverting power dynamics between men and women, the West and the East. Last year, a revival production went to Broadway and closed after two months.The two productions, thirty years apart, although telling a similar story, differ in ways that they present and discuss Asian femininity. Through this essay, I will examine the different ways in which the original and revival productions of M. Butterfly explore the intersectionality of Asianness and femininity. I bring together theories of performance studies by Erika Fischer-Lichte and gender studies by Judith Butler to show how the original M. Butterfly story presents a case where races and genders are performative. With a comparative analysis of the two versions of scripts and performances, I address how the revival production and the revised script offer a new angle in looking at the possibilities of gender transformation, especially regarding transcending Asian femininity.
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