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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."