On January 29, 2012, CHINGLISH played its last performance on Broadway. Towards the end of 2011, I’d been encouraged as the annual “Top Ten Best in Theatre” lists came out from different publications and we made about a half-dozen of them. TIME Magazine even named CHINGLISH the Best American Play of the year. Our producers put up a new poster in Schubert Alley, at the heart of Times Square.
Still, we didn’t sell enough tickets each week to keep from losing money, so they eventually had to close the show. We ended up lasting about three months – a respectable run, though we certainly would’ve liked to have run longer. Although I’ve learned from my experiences that however long a show a runs, you always feel it should’ve run longer.
Should we have cast a big movie star in the play? In retrospect, that would probably have helped us sell tickets and stay open. Nevertheless, I appreciate that our producers loved this show enough to gamble on going into the cutthroat commercial market of Broadway without one. I’m proud they were brave enough to buck that trend.
Even before the show closed, there were encouraging signs that CHINGLISH’s journey was not yet over, including lots of interest in future productions, around the country and the world. I can’t report much yet on that front, except that the first post-Broadway production has already been announced, for the San Francisco Bay Area, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre this fall. More to come.
And over the past few weeks, something completely surprising: a scandal in China bears an eerie resemblance to my play. When the story of former Communist Party Chief Bo Xilai, whose wife has been arrested for the murder of a British businessman, began to break, journalists and China experts who had seen my show began emailing me: “It’s CHINGLISH as a murder mystery!” “CHINGLISH a la Agatha Christie.” NEWSWEEK and THE DAILY BEAST asked me to write a piece, and the magazine’s editor, Tina Brown, interviewed me about all the parallels.
Back in December 2011, Offenders Justin, Elaine, and Phil came to see CHINGLISH on Broadway, and we began to discuss the possibility of working on a movie version of the play. I very much appreciated others who also made offers for the film rights. But I’ve admired Justin as a director and artist ever since he burst out of the gate with BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, we’ve now known each other for a few years, and have been looking for a project to do together. Not to mention, our YOMYOMF connection. So I’d always imagined that, if Justin and Elaine were interested in CHINGLISH as a movie, I’d want to join creative forces with them.
Fortunately, they were interested. So today, we are announcing that Offender Justin and Barnstorm Productions (under the leadership of Offender Elaine), have acquired the film rights to CHINGLISH. I couldn’t be more excited about working together to bring this story to the screen. The creative meetings we’ve had so far feel really easy, fun, and natural. Like we’re just a group of friends, sharing similar tastes and concerns, working to make a movie.
Or like three Offenders, working to put out a blog.