Daniel Dae Kim stood in a studio with playwright David Henry Hwang and director Leigh Silverman recording the audio version of Hwang’s play “Yellow Face” when the trio looked at each other and asked: “Why isn’t this on Broadway? Why hasn’t this been on Broadway?” Kim recalled.
First mounted in 2007 by Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, “Yellow Face” follows a playwright named DHH who protests the casting of non-Asian actor Jonathan Pryce as a Vietnamese character in “Miss Saigon.” As DHH’s protests largely go unanswered, he writes a play called “Face Value” about the “Miss Saigon” controversy and casts an actor who he believes is part Asian in one of the lead Asian roles — only to find out that the actor is fully white.
Given today’s increased public discourse around authenticity in casting, Hwang seems to have been ahead of the curve in grappling with this issue onstage. Wanting “Yellow Face” to be mounted on Broadway, Kim, Hwang and Silverman reached out to leaders at Roundabout Theatre Company, which just announced that the play, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist, will be the first production of its 2024-2025 season. (Read the full Roundabout season announcement here.)
“The nonprofit element of this is important because it comes with talkbacks and educational programs and discounted prices for students,” Kim noted.
Silverman is set to direct the Broadway premiere, with Kim starring as DHH. “It was so clear to me from the beginning that this needed to be the team. That we would do this all together,” Kim said. “I’m grateful to Audible for putting us in that room [in 2023], because that’s what helped to spark the idea.”