In 2014, Artistic Director Michael Ritchie approached Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright David Henry Hwang to commission a new work for Center Theatre Group’s 50th Anniversary. After collaborating with Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (Shrek the Musical; Caroline, or Change; Fun Home), Tony Award-nominated director Leigh Silverman (Yellow Face; Chinglish; Violet), and Tony Award-winning choreographer Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; Amélie; Significant Other), Soft Power—a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist—had its World premiere at the Ahmanson in 2018 as a co-production with The Public Theater. Soft Power was the latest in David Henry Hwang’s long-running relationship with Center Theatre Group, which includes the World premieres of Flower Drum Song in 2001 and Yellow Face in 2007 at the Mark Taper Forum.
Soft Power turns the classic East-meets-West musical on its head by putting the traditional American musical through the Chinese perspective. Like much of Hwang’s work, Soft Power explores identity and cultural appropriation. Inspired by the racism imbued in The King and I, where a white woman travels to Siam to teach the king how to be civilized, Soft Power inverts that power relationship by creating a world approximately 100 years in the future in which China has superseded the U.S. as a cultural power. Not only is this achieved through the storytelling, but also through the music. Tesori’s score pays homage to the sounds of classic Broadway in order to depict how China has appropriated the American musical form. Inspired by the events of the 2016 election, Soft Power also explores the ideas of independence and democracy—the song “Election Night,” in which the United States’ electoral system is explained to Xue, is our featured Scenes from the Vault selection.
In honor of Soft Power and in preparation for the upcoming 2020 presidential election, we urge you to exercise your democratic right to vote and learn more about this year’s pivotal race. This year, all California voters will be sent a vote-by-mail ballot with a prepaid postage return envelope for the November 3, 2020 General Election. You will be able track and get critical updates on your ballot here. Before you cast your vote, take Procon’s nonpartisan quiz to see which candidate aligns most with your beliefs, and make sure to browse FactCheck.org to fact check this election year’s candidates. Check out the official State of California’s Voter Information Guide, the City of Los Angeles’s website, and the County of Los Angeles's details on how to vote by mail to learn more about how to register to vote, where to find your polling place, how to cast your ballot, and everything else you need to know to make your vote count this year.