News / Arts & Entertainment

A 'Dansical' about Martial Arts Star Bruce Lee Takes the Stage in NYC

Kung Fu, a 'Dansical' About Martial Arts Star Bruce Lee, On Stage in NYCi
X
March 14, 2014 3:45 PM
Kung Fu, the new play by David Henry Hwang now on stage in New York City, dramatizes the early years of Chinese-American martial arts star Bruce Lee, before he became a film legend. VOA's Carolyn Weaver has more.
Carolyn Weaver
Kung Fu, a new play by David Henry Hwang at New York’s Signature Theatre, dramatizes the early years of Chinese-American martial arts star Bruce Lee, who was born in the United States but raised mostly in Hong Kong. Lee, played by Cole Horibe, was 18 and already an experienced child actor, dancer and master of Chinese martial arts when he returned to the U.S. to finish his schooling. The play is set in a drab studio in Seattle, Washington, similar to the one where Lee taught dance and kung-fu while still a college student.
 
Hwang said he first tried to write the play as a musical, but decided it was better to use dance interludes rather than songs to punctuate the story.
 
"It's got 17 dance numbers, a lot of fighting,” he said. “This is something that really I don't think has been done before, at least in America, which is to create what I'm calling a ‘dansical,’ a show which is a combination of drama and dance. So, in a way we kind of had to invent this form, and I think we managed to do it in a pretty short period of time to put on a show that is about as big as any Broadway musical."
 
Like other plays by Hwang, who is best known for M. Butterfly and Golden Child, Kung Fu is concerned with questions of Asian American identity, prejudice and assimilation. As a young actor in Hollywood, Bruce Lee found himself relegated to secondary, stereotyped roles. 
 
“Every time I see the bowing, scraping Chinaman with the long pigtail, I want to smash the TV!” Lee exclaims in a scene with a TV producer who is about to offer him the sidekick role of Kato on a TV superhero series, The Green Hornet.
 
"I agree,” Dozier chimes in. “The way Oriental people are portrayed by Hollywood: villains, enemy soldiers, comic relief, it makes me sick. In my project, you would play a completely different kind of character."
 
"The hero,” Lee replies.
 
"Well, he works with the hero, and he's a hero, too,” Dozier responds smoothly.
 
The play also makes a theme of Lee’s struggles, seen in flashbacks, with his father, Hoi-Chuen, a Cantonese-opera star, who despises Lee's aspirations.
 
"No one gives a damn about Hong Kong!" Lee shouts, as they do mock battle with Shaolin sticks.
 
"In America, no one gives a damn about you!" his father responds.
 
As Kato in The Green Hornet - martial artist and aide to the hero - Lee became famous in the U.S. and Hong Kong. But that did not translate into the lead action roles he wanted in Hollywood.
 
"As talented and as amazing as he was,” Hwang said, “[Lee] wasn't able to break the glass ceiling in American entertainment, and a lot of the second act of the play is about his struggles trying to get work as an actor in America. And at the end of the show he finally realizes that it's not going to happen for him in America, and he goes back to Hong Kong."
 
The play ends before Lee achieves stardom, through the martial arts action movies that he filmed in Hong Kong in 1971 and 1972. He died of a brain edema the following year at the age of 32, just before the release of his first big Hollywood film, Enter the Dragon.
 
While some critics have complained that Kung Fu is dramatically inert, and the dialogue prosaic, all have praised its dance sequences, particularly the performance of Horibe, a martial arts Olympic medalist and runner-up on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.
 
Variety’s reviewer, Marilyn Stasio, wrote that “choreographer Sonya Tayeh has invented some astonishing moves for a (mostly) male ensemble of dazzling dancer-athletes. So long as Horibe and the guys are airborne, they have our rapt attention.”

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."