David Henry Hwang
with an Afterword by the Playwright
A PLUME BOOK
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
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Copyright© 1986, 1987, 1988 by David Henry Hwang
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M . Butterfll' was previously published, in its entirety, in American Theatre magazine.
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"A former French diplomat and a Chinese opera
singer have been sentenced to six years in jail for
spying for China after a two-day trial that traced
a story of clandestine love and mistaken sexual
identity .... Mr. Bouriscot was accused of passing information to China after he fell in love
with Mr. Shi, whom he believed for twenty years
to be a woman."
-Tht New York Times, May 11, 1986
This play was suggested by international newspaper accounts of a recent espionage trial. For purposes of dramatization, names have been changed, characters created, and
incidents devised or altered, and this play does not purport
to be a factual record of real events or real people.
"I could escape this feeling
With my China girl ... "
-David Bowie & Iggy Pop
M. Butterfly, presented by Stuart Ostrow and David Geffen,
and directed by John Dexter, premiered on February 10,
1988, at the National Theatre in Washington, D. C ., and
opened on Broadway March 20, 1988, at the Eugene O'Neill
Theatre. M . Butterfly won the 1988 Tony for best play, the
Outer Critics Circle A ward for best Broadway play, the
John Gassner Award for best American play, and the Drama
Desk Award for best new play. It had the following cast:
Alec Mapa, Chris Odo, Jamie H.J. Guan
B. D. Wong
Marc/Man #2/Consul Sharpless
Renee/Woman at Party/Girl
Comrade Chin/Suzuki/Shu Fang
Lori Tan Chinn
George N. Martin
M. Toulon/Man #1/Judge
Scenery and Costumes: Eiko Ishioka
Lighting: Andy Phillips
Hair: Phyllis Della
Music; Giacomo Puccini, Lucia Hwong
Casting: Meg Simon, Fran Kumin
Production Stage Manager: Bob Borod
Peking Opera Consultants: Jamie H.J. Guan & Michelle Ehlers
Musical Director and Lute: Lucia Hwong
Percussion, Shakuhachi, and Guitar: Yukio Tsuji
Violin and Percussion: Jason Hwang
Musical Coordinator: John Miller
!'resent, an in reca]) duriR.g the deca de 1960 ta 1970 in
'Beijing, and from 1966 to the present in Paris.
M. Gallimard's prison cell. Paris. Present.
Lights fade up to reveal Rene Gallimard, 65, in a prison cell.
He wears a comfortable bathrobe, and looks old and tired. The
sparsely famished cell contains a wooden crate upon which sits a
hot plate with a kettle, and a portable tape recorder. Gallimard
sits on the crate staring at the recorder, a sad smile on his face.
Upstage Song, who appears as a beauti fu l woman in traditional Chinese garb, dances a traditional piece .from the Pekin
pera, surroun e
t e ercussive clatter o C inese musi .
hen, slow/ Ii hts and sound cross- ade· the Chinese o era
music issolves into a Western o era the "Love Duet" om
uccini's Ma ame Butterfly. Song continues dancing , now to
the Western accompaniment. Though her movements are the
same, the difference in music now gives them a balletic quality.
Gallimard rises, and turns upstage towards the figure of
Song, who dances without acknowledging him.
Butterfly, Butterfly ...
He forces himself to turn away, as the ima e o
an ta s to us.
GALLIMARD: The limits of my cell are as such: four-and-ahalf meters by five. There's one window against the far
wall ; a door, very strong, to protect me from autograph
ACT ONE, Scene Two
hounds. I'm responsible for the tape recorder, the hot
plate, and this charming coffee table.
When I want to eat, I'm marched off to the dining
room-hot, steammg slo p appears on my plate. When I
want to sleep, the light bulo turns itself oft the work of
fairies. It's an enchanted space I occupy. The French-we
know how to run a pnson. ·
But, to be honest, I'm not treated like an ordinary
· prisoner. Why? Because I'm a celebrity. You see, I make
I never dreamed this day would arci ve I've oevet been
considered witty or clever. In fact, as a young boy, in an
· I nfo rmal poll among my grammar school classmates, I
was v? ted "least likely to be invited to a party." It's a title
I managed to hold onto for many years. Despite some
But now, how the tables turn! Look at me: the life of
every social function in Paris. Paris? Why be modest? My
fame has spread to Amsterdam, London, New York.
Listen to them! In the world's smartest parlors. I'm the
one who lifts their spirits!
With a ourish, Gallimard directs our attention to
o the stag!.
WOMAN: And what of Gallimard.?..
MAN 1: Gallimard?
MAN 2: Gallimard!
GALLIMARD (To us) : You see? They're all determined to say
my name, as if it were some new dance,
WoMAN: He still claims not to believe the truth,
MAN 1: What? Still? Even since 'the trial?
WOMAN: Yes. Isn't it mad?
MAN 2 (Laughing): He says .
. it was dark ... and she was
The trio break into laughter.
MAN 1: S9=:what? He never touched her with his hands?
MAN 2: Perhaps he did, and simply misidentified the equipment. A compelling case for sex education in the schools.
'WOMAN: To protect the National Security-the Church
can't argue with that.
MAN 1: That's impossible! How could he not know?
MAN 2: Simple ignorance.
MAN 1: For twenty years?
A party. Present.
Lights go up on a chic-looking parlor, where a well-dressed
trio, two men and one woman, make conversation. Gallimard
also remains lit; he observes them from his cell .
:MAN 2: Time flies when you're being stupid.
.WOMAN: Well, I thought the French were ladies' men.
MAN 2: It seems Monsieur Gallimard was overly anxious to
live up t o his national reputation.
WOMAN: Well, he's not very good-looking.
,MAN 1: No, he's not.
ACT ONE, Scene Three
MAN 2: Certainly not.
Butterfly. By Giacomo Puccini. First produced at La Scala,
Milan, m 1904, 1t 1s now beloved throughout the Western
WOMAN: Actually, I feel sorry for hjm
MAN 2: A toast! To Monsieur Gallimard!
A s Gallimard describes the opera, the tape segues in and out to
. sections he may be describing.
WoMAN: Yes! To Gallimard!
MAN 1: To Gallimard!
GALLIMARD: And why not? It~ heroine, Cio-Cio-San, also
known as Buttt:;rfl , ts a fetnmine ideal, beautiful and
rave. n its bera, the man for whom she gives up
everything, is-(He ulls out a naval o cer's ca
,s crate, pops it on his head and struts about -not ver
oo - oo ing, not too bright, and pretty much a wimp:
Benjamin Franklin Pin erton o
avy. s t e
curtain nses, he's just closed on two great bargains: one
on a house, the other on a woman-call it a package deal.
Pinkerton purchased the rights to Butterfly for one
hundred yen-in modern currency, equivalent to about
. .. sixty-six cents . ...So, he's feeling pretty pleased with
himself as Sharpless, the American consul, arrives to wit- ness the marriage.
MAN 2: Vive la difference!
They toast, laughing. Lights down on them.
M. Gallimard's cell.
GALLIMARD (Smiling): Yon see? I bey toa st me. I've become patron saint of the socially inept. Can they really be
so foolis h? Men like that-they should be scratching at
my door, begging to learn my secrets! For I, Rene
Gallimard, you see, I have known, and been loved by ...
the Perfect Woman.
Alone in this cell, I sit night after night, watching our
story play through my head, always searching for a new
endmg, one Vf hich redeems my honor, w here she returns
at la st to m arms. And I imagine you-my ideal
au 1ence--who come to u
Just a ittle, to envy m e.
Marc, wearin an o
ays the character.
to desi nate Shar less, enters and
PINKERTON/GALLIMARD: Sharpless! How's it hangin'? It's a
great day, just great. Between my house, my wife, and
the rickshaw ride in from town, I've saved nineteen cents
just this morning.
He turns on his ta pe recorder. Over the house speakers, we hear
the opening phrases of Madame Rnttecfly .
SHARPLESS: Wonderful. I can see the inscription on your
tombstone already: "I saved a dollar, here I lie." (He looks
around) Nice house.
GALLIMARD: In order for you to understand what I did an
why, I must introduce you to my avorite opera: Madam!!,
PINKERTON: It's artistic. Artistic, don't you think? Like the
way the shoji screens shde open to reveal the wet bar and
ACT ONE, Scene Four
disco mirror ball? Classy. huh? Great for impressing the
SHARPLESS: "Chicks"? Pinkerton, you're going to be a mirried man! ·
PINKERTON: Well, sort of
PINKERTON: Huh? Where?
PINKERTON: You mean, America? Are you crazy ? Can you
see her trying to buy rice in St. Lams?
So, you're not serious .
SHARPLESS: What do yon mean'? _
PINKERTON: This country-Sharpless, it is okay. You got all
these geisha girls running aroundSHARPLESS: I know! I live here'
PINKERTON: Then. you know the marriage laws, right?
split for one month, it's annulled!
PINKERTON/GALLIMARD (As Pinkerton): Consul, I am a sailor
in port. (As Gallimard) They then pcoceed ro sit:ig rb e
famous duet, "The Whole World Over."
The duet plays on the speakers. Gallimard, as Pinkerton , lipsyncs his lines from the opera .
SHARPLESS: Leave it to you to read the fine print. Who's the
PINKERTON: Cio-Cio-San. Her friends call her Butterfly .
Sharpless, she eats out of m y hand!
SHARPLESS: She's probably very hungry.
PINKERTON: Not like American girls. It's true what they s~
about Oriental girls. They want to be treated bacll
SHARPLESS: Oh, please!
PINKERTON: It's true!
SHARPLESS: Are you serious about this girl?
PINKERTON: I'm marrying her, aren't I?
SHARPLESS: Yes-with generous trade-in terms.
Ecole Nationale. Aix-en-Prov~nce . .12£1-
PINKERTON: When I leave, she'll know what it's like to have
loved a real man. And I'll even buy her a few nylons.
GALLIMARD: No, Marc, I think I'd rather stay home.
SHARPLESS: You aren't planning to take her with you?
MARC: Are you crazy?! We are going to Dad's condo in
· Marseille! You know what happened last time?
ACT ONE, Scene Five
GALLIMARD: Of course I do.
MARC: Of course you don't! You never know ..
GALLIMARD: ,.Who stripped?
MARC: The girls!
GALLIMARD: Girls? Who said anything about girls?
· MARC: Rene, we're a buncha university guys goin' up to the
woods. What are .we gonna do-talk philosophy?
GALLIMARD: What girls? Where do you get them?
MARC: Who cares? The point is, they come. On trucks.
Packed in like sardines. The back flips open, babes hop
· out, we're ready to roll.
GALLIMARD: y OU mean, they just-?
· MARC: Before you know it every last one of them-they 're
~tripped and splashing around my pool. There's no moon
· out, they can't see what's going on, their boobs are flapping, right? You close your eyes, reach out-it's grab
'bag, get it? Doesn't matter whose ass is between whose
legs, whose teeth are sinking into who. You're just in
there, going at it, eyes closed, on and on for as long as
you can stand. (Pause) Some. fun, huh?
Xou go ahead ... I may come later.
MARC: Hey , Rene-it daeso 't matter that you 'ce clumsy and
got zits-they're not looking!
GALLIMARD: Thank you very much.
Marc walks over to the other side of the stage, and starts waving
and smiling at women i~ the audience.
GALLIMARD (To us): We now return to my version of Madame Butterfly and the events leading to my recent conviction for treason.
Gallimard notices Marc making lewd gestures.
GALLIMARD: Marc, what are you doing?
MARC: Huh? (Sotto voce) Rene, there're a lotta great babes out
there. They're probably lookin' at me and thinking, "What
a dangerous guy."
GALLIMARD: Yes-how could they help but be impressed by
your cool sophistication?
Gallimard o s the
less ca on Marc's head, and oints
im offstage. Marc exits , leering.
GALLIMARD: What happens in the morning?
MARC: In the morning, you're ready to talk some philosophy. (Beat) So how 'bout it?
GALLIMARD: Marc 'I can 't , I'm afraid rbey'll say 00::::rbe
girls. So I never ask.
MARC: You don't have to ask! That's the beauty--don't you
see? They don 't have to say yes. It's perfect for a guy like
M . Gallimard's cell.
GALLIMARD : Next, Butterfly makes her entrance. We learn
her age-fifteen .. . but very mature fo r her years.
ACT ONE, Scene Five
Lights come up on the area where we saw Son dancin at the
. top o t e p ay. She a ears there a ain now dressed as Maame utter y, movin to the "
upstage s ig t y to watch, trans fixed.
But as she glides past him, beautiful, laughing
softly behind her fan, don't we who are men sigh with
hope? We, who are not handsome, nor brave, nor powerful, yet somehow believe, like Pinkerton, that we deserve
a Butterfly. She arrives with all her possessions in the
folds of her sleeves, lays them all out, for her man to do
with as he pleases. Even her life itself-she bows her head
as she whispers that she's not even worth the hundred yen
he paid for her. He's already given too much, when we
know he's really had to give nothing at all.
Music and lights on Song out. Gallimard sits at his crate.
GALLIMARD : In real life, women who pudheir total worth at
less than sixty-six cents are quite hard to find. The closest
we come 1s m the pages of these magazines. (He reaches
into his crate, pulls out a stack of girlie magazines, and begins
.flipping through them) Quite a necessity in prison. For three
or four dollars, you get seven or eight women.
I first discovered these magazines at my uncle's house.
· One day, as a boy of twelve. The first time I saw them in
his closet ... all lined up-my body shook. Not with
lust-no, with power. Here were women-a shelffulwho would do exactly as I wanted.
The "Love Duet" creeps in over the speakers. Special comes
up, revealing, not Song this time, but a pinup girl in a sexy
negligee, her back to us. Gallimard turns upstage and looks at
I know you're watching me.
My throat ... it's dry.
I leave my blinds open every night before I go to
I can't move.
I leave my blinds open and the lights on.
GALLIMARD: I'm shaking. My skin is hot, but m y penis
soft. Why? ·GIRL:
I stand in front of the window.
I shouldn't be seeing this. It's so dirty. I'~
--Then, slowly, I lift off my nightdress.
What is she going to do?
I toss my hair, and I let my lips part . . . barely.
Oh, god. I can't believe it. I can't-
I toss it to the ground.
Now, she's going to walk away. She's going
I stand there, in the light, displaying m yself.
No, she must ... like it.
I like it.
In front of a window? This is wrong. No-
No. She's-why j s sbe naked?
She . . . she wants me to see.
I want you to see.
ACT ONE, Scene Five
GALLIMARD: I can't believe it! She's getting excited!
GIRL: I can't see you. You can do whatever you want.
GALLIMARD: I can't do a thing. Why?
GIRL: What would you like me to do .. . next?
Lights go down on her. Music o . Silence as Gallimard u
away is magazines . Then he resumes talking to us.
GALLIMARD: Act Two begins with Butterfly staring at the
ocean. Pinkerton's been called back to the U.S., and
'he's iven his wife a detailed schedule of his plans. In
the column mar e
return ate, he's written w en
bms nest. I his tailed to 1gmte her suspicions:
ree years have passed wit out a ee
Which b rings a res ponse from her · faithful servan.!_,
Comrade Chin enters, playing Suzuki.
SuzuK1: Girl, he's a loser. What'd he ever give you? Nineteen cents and those ugly D ay-Glo stockings ? L-;;ok, it's
finished! Kaput! Done! And you should be glad! I mean,
the guy was a woofer! He tried before, you know-before
he met you, he went down to geisha central and plunked
down his spare change in front of the usual candidateseveryone else gagged! These are hungry prostitutes, and
they were not interested, get the picture? Now, stor_
slathering when an American ship sails in, and let's make
' some bucks I mean, yen! We are brolce!
- 5 ow, w hat ahcmr j amadon? Hey, hey-don't look
away-the man is a prince--fi uratively, and, what's even
Eetter, 1tera y. e s rich, he's han some, e says e
.if.yon don't marry him-and he' s even w1llmg to~
look the little fact that you've been deflowered all over
the place by a forei gn devil. What do you mean " But
he's Japanese?" You're a anese! You th.
,_h¥--the whitey god? He was a sailor with dirty
Suzuki stalks offitage.
GALLIMARD: She's also visited by Consul Sharpless, sent by
Pinkerton on a minor errand.
Marc enters, as Sharpless.
SHARPLESS: I hate this job.
GALLIMARD: This Pinkerton- he doesn't show up personally
to tell his wife he's abandoning her. N o, he sends a
_government diplomat ... at taxpayer's expense..
SHARPLESS: Butterfly? Butterfly? I have some bad-I'm going
to be ill. Butterfly, I came to tell youGALLIMARQ: Butterfly says she knows he'll return and ifhe
doesn't she'll kill herself rather than o back to her own
peop e. (Beat) This causes a lull in the conversation.
SHARPLESS: Let's put it this way ...
GALLIMARD: Butterfly runs into the next room, and returns
Sound cue: a baby crying. Sharpless, "seeing" this, backs
SHARPLESS: Well, good. Happy to see things going so well. I
suppose I'll be going now. Ta ta. Ciao. (He turns away .
Sound cue out) I hate this job. (He exits)
GALLIMARD: At that moment, Butterfly spots in the harbor
an American ship-the Abramo Lincoln!
Music cue: "The Flower Duet." Song, still dressed as Butter.fly, changes into a wedding kimono, moving to the music.
ACT ONE, Scene Six
GALLIMARD: This is the moment that redeems her years of waiting. With Suzuki's help, they cover the room with flowers•
Chin, as Suzuki, trudges onstage and drops a lone flower
without much enthusiasm.
GALLIMARD: -and she changes into her wedding dress to
prepare for Pinkerton's arrival.
Suzuki helps Butterfly change. Helga enters, and helps Gallimard
change into a tuxedo .
GALLIMARD:} married a woman older than myself-Helga.
HELGA: M y father was ambassador to Australia. I grew up
among criminals and kangaroos.
GALLIMARD: Hearing that brought me to the altar-
·GALLIMARD: - y here I took a vo w renouncing love. No
fantasy · woman would ever want me, so, es, I would
sett e or
r ladder. Passion, I
banish, and in its place-practicality!
· But my vows had long since lost their charm by the
· time we arrived in China. The sad truth is that all men
. want a beautiful woman and rbe uglier the man, the
greater the want.
.Suzuki makes final adjustments of Butte,jly's costume, as does
Gallimard of his tuxedo.
· GALLIMARD: I married late, at age thirty-one. I was faithful
to my marriage for eight years. Until the day when, as a
junior-level diplomat in puritanical Peking, in a parlor at
the German ambassador's house, during the "Reign of a
Hundred Flowers," I first saw her . .. singing the death
. scene from Madame Butte,jly.
Suzuki runs offstage.
German ambassador's house. Beijing. 1960.
The upstage special area now becomes a stage. Several chairs
face upstage, representing seating for some twenty guests in the
parlor. A few "diplomats"-:-Renee, Marc, Toulon-in formal
dress enter and take seats.
Gallimard also sits down, ·but turns towards us and continues
to talk. Orchestral accompaniment on the tape is now replaced
by a simple piano. Song picks up the death scene from the point
where Buttcrjly uncovers the hara-kiri kni fe.
GALLIMARD: The ending is pitiful. Pinkerton, in an act of
great courage, stays home and sends his American wife to
p ick up Butterfly 's child. The truth, long deferred, has
come up to her door.
Song, pla ying Butte,jly, sings the lines from the opera in her
own voice-which , though not classical , should be decent .
SONG: "Con on:or muore/ chi non puo serbar/ vita con
onore . "
GALLIMARD (§ imultaneously): "Death with honor/ ls bett~
than life/ Tifp w ith '1isbo1=1or "
The stage is illuminated; we are now completely within an
efegant diplomat's residence. Song proceeds to play out an abbreviated death scene. Eve one in the roam applauds. Song, shy[ ,
a es er bows. Others in t
Gallimard remains with us.
GALLIMARD: They sa in o era the voice is ever thin .
That's probab y why I'd never before enjoyed opera .
Here . . . here was a Butterfly with little or rio voice-but
she had the grace, the delicacy . . . . I believed this girl. I
ACT ONE, Scene Six
believed her suffering. I wanted to take her in my arms-so
delicate, even I could protect her, take her home, pamper
her until she smiled.
Over the course of the preceeding speech, Song has broken .from
ffie upstage crowd and moved directly upstage of Gallimard.
SONG: ~ xcuse me. Monsienr
. . ?
Gallimard turns upsta?e , shocked.
GALLIMARD: Oh! Gallimard. Mademoiselle . .. ? A beautiful . ..
SONG: Song Liling.
GALLIMARD : Absolutely. You were utterly convincing. It's
the first time-SONG: Convincing? As aJapanese woman? The a anese used
hundre s o our peop e or medical experiments during the
war, you know. But I gather such an irony is lost on you.
GALLIMARD: No! I was about ro say , it's the fi rst time I've
seen the beauty of the staq1;
-GALLIMARD: Of her death. It's a . .. a pure sacrifice. He's
unworthy,- but what can she do? She loves him ... so
· much. It's a very beauti~ul story.
GALLIMARD: A beautiful performance.
SONG: ~ elt yes, to a Westerner.
SONG: Oh, please.
GALLIMARD: Excuse me?
GALLIMARD: I usually-
SONG: It's one of our favorite fantasies, isn't it? The submissive Oriental worn
SONG: You make me blush. I'm no opera singer at all.
GALLIMARD: I usually don't like Butter[[~.
SONG: I can't blame you in the least.
GALLIMARD: I mean the story=
SONG: Ridiculous .
GALLIMARD: I like the story, but ... w hat?
· SONG: Oh, you like it?
GALLIMARD: I ... what I mean is, I've always seen it played
by huge women in so much bad makeup.
GALLIMARD: Well, I didn't quite mean ...
SONG: Consider it this way: what would you say if a blonde
homecoming queen fe)l in Jave with a short Japanese
· busmessman? He treats her cruelly, then goes home for
three years, durmg w hich time she ra s to his picture
an turns own marriage from a oun · Kenned .
when she earns e as remarried she kiUs herself Now ,
I believe you would consider this girl to be a deranged
idiot, correct? But because it's an O riental who kills herself for a Westerner-ah!-you find it beautiful.
•SONG: Bad makeup is not unique to the West.
GALLIMARD: Yes . . . well ... I see your point ...
GALLIMARD: But, who can believe them?
SONG: I will never do Butterfly again, Monsieur Gallimard.
If you w ish to see some real theatre, come to the Peking
Opera sometime. Expand your mind.
SONG: And you believe me?
• • - - - - • • • • • - • • • • • •---•~-~~l.,,,.l,!..~
1!IJ1!!,.$l.Jl!_J.,'IIIIIJII,,-. . .!!111!11_
_.,. . ......,.. . . .~!!!.•.... ~!!1!111111--~-·-···"- .,~'"·.-,,-_l!llll
. ~o ~
C : :1MARD:
I want to marry you!
Gallimard and Butterfly's flat. Beijing. 1963.
Downsta e, Son aces as Comrade Chin reads om her
· Upstage, Gallimard is still _kne~ling. He remains on
knees throughout the scene, watching it.
SONG: I need
CHIN (From pad): He's been spotted going to a dorm.
SONG: I need a baby.
CHIN: At the Foreign Language Institute.
SONG: I need a baby.
CHIN: The room of a Danish girl ... What do you mean,
you need a bahy?I_
SONG: Tell Comrade Kang-last night, the entire mission,
it could've ended.
CHIN: What do you mean?
SONG: Rene ...
SONG: Tell Kang-he told me to strip.
CHIN: I tell you, I don't understand nothing about this case
ACT TWO, Scene Seven
He told me to strip, and I took a chance. Oh, we
Chinese, we know how to gamble.
SONG: Miss Chin? Why, in the Peking Opera, are women's
roles played by men ?
CHIN (Writing): " ... told him to strip."
CHIN: I don't know. Maybe, a reactionary remnant of male--
SONG: My palms were wet, I had to make a split-second
SONG: No. (Beat Because only a man knows how a woman
is suppose to act.
CHIN: Hey! Can you slow down?!
SONG: You write faster, I'm the artist here. Suddenly, it
hit me--"All he wants is for her to submit. Once a
woman submits. a man is always ready to become
CHIN: You're j ust gonna end up with rough notes.
Chin exits. Song turns upstage, towards Gallimard.
GALLIMARD: Callin a er Chin: Good riddance! (To Son&.L
could forget all that betrayal in an ms an, you now. If
y ou'd just come back and become Butterfly again.
SONG: Fat chance. You're here in prison, rotting in a cell.
And I'm on a plane, wmgmg my way back to China.
Your President pardoned me of our treason. you know
SONG: And it worked! He ave in! Now, if I can just
resent him with a
A Chinese ba
hair-he'll be mine for life.!
GALLIMARD: Yes, I read about that.
CHIN: Kan will never agree! The trading of babies has to
be a counterrevo uttonary act.
GALLIMARD:~ t don't you, even a little bit, wish you were.
here with me?
SONG: Must make you feel ... lower than shit.
SONG: Sometimes, a counterrevolutionary act is necessary
to counter a counterrevolutionary act.
SONG: I need one ... in seven months. Make sure it's a
CHIN: This doesn't sound like something the Chairman
would do. Maybe you'd better talk to Comrade Kang
SONG: Good. I will.
Chin gets up to leave.
Gallimard uts his arms around Song's waist. He and Son are
in the positions the were in at t e en o Scene 6.
ACT TWO, Scene Eight
SONG: Do I sound silly, a slave, if I say I'm not worthy1,_,
GALLIMARD: Yes. In fact you do. No one has Joyed roe like
GALLIMARD: I'll divorce m y wife. We'll live together here,
, and then later in France.
SONG: I feel so . . . ashamed.
· SONG: I had begun to lose faith. And now, you shame me
· with your generosity.
GALLIMARD: Generosity? No, I'm proposing for very selfish
SONG: Your apologies only make me feel more ashamed,
My outburst a moment ago!
GALLIMARD: Your outburst? What about ·my request?!
SoNG: You've been very patient dealing with my ... eccentricities. A Western man, used to women freer with_
their bodiesGALLIMARD: It was ~ick! Don't make excuses for me.
SONG: I have to. You don't seem willing to make them
GALLIMARD;-Y' ou're crazy.
SONG: I'm happy. Which often looks like crazy.
GALLIMARD: Then make me crazy . Marry me.
SONG: Thank you. And no one ever will. I'll see to that.
GALLIMARD: So what is the problem?
SONG: Rene, we Chinese are realists. We understand rice,
gold, and guns. You are a diplomat. Your career is
skyrocketing. Now, what would happen if you divorced
your wife to marry a Communist Chinese actress?
GALLIMARD: That's not being realistic. That's defeating yanrself before you begin.
SONG: We must conserve our strength for the battles we can
GALLIMARD: That sounds like a fortune cookie!
SONG: Where do you think fortune cookies come from?
GALLIMARD: I don't care.
SONG: You do. So do I. And we should. That is why I say
I'm not worthy. I'm worthy to love and even to be loved
by you. But I am not worthy to end the career of one of
the West's most promising diplomats.
GALLIMARD: It's not that great a career! I made it sound like
more than jt is!
SONG: Modest will et ou nowhere. Flatter ourself, and
you flatter me. I'm flattere to ec me your offer. (She
GALLIMARD (To us) : Butterfly and I argued all night. And, in
the end, I left knowin
ver be her hus band.
e went away for several months-to the cou
1 e a small anima . nt1 t e mg t I received her call.
ACT TWO, Scene Nine
GALLIMARD: "Song Peepee"? May
Stephan, or Adolph?
suggest Michael. or
SONG: You may, but I won't listen.
A baby's cry from offs tage . Song enters , carrying a child,
GALLIMARD: You can't be serious. Can you imagine the time
this child will have in school?
SONG: He looks like you.
SONG: In the West, yes.
GALLIMARD: Oh 1 (Beat · he 4f2Proaches the baby) Well, babie§.
are never very attractive at birth.
GALLIMARD: It's worse than naming him Ping Pong or Long
SONG: But he's never going to live in the West, is he?
GALLIMARD: I'm sure he'll grow more beautiful with age.
More like his mother.
SONG: " Chi vide mail a bimbo del Giappon .
SONG: It is mine. And this is m y promise to you: I wj)l
raise him, he will be our child, but he will never burden
Y..9.U outs~de of China.
GALLIMARD : "What baby, I wonder, was ever born m
Japan"-or Clima, for that matter-
GALLIMARD : That wasn't m y choice.
SONG: " . . . occhi azzurrinit
GALLIMARD: Wh do you make these promises? I
be burdened! I want a scan
GALLIMARD: " W jth azu ce eyes "-they 're actually sort of
brown, wouldn't you say?
SoNGj(To us): Prophetic\
SONG: "E il lab bro."
GALLIMARD: I'm serious.
GALLIMARD: "And such lips!" (He kisses Song) And such lips.
SONG: So am I. His name is as I registered it. And he
will never live in the West.
.SONG: "E i ricciolini d'oro schietto?"
GALLIMARD : "And such a head of golden"'-if slightly
p_a tchy-" curls?' '
SONG: I'm goin_g to call him "Peepee."
GALLIMARD: Darling, could you repeat that because I'm sure
a -rickshaw just flew by overhead.
SONG: You heard me.
Song ex its with the child.
GALLIMARD (To us): It is possible that her stubbornness only
made me want her more. That drawing back at the moment o f my capitulation was the most brilliant strategy
she could have chosen. It is possjble. But it is also possible that by this point she could have said, could have
done ... anything, and I would have adored her still.
ACT TWO, Scene Nine
• GALLIMARD: I' m being transferred ... because I was wrong
. about the American war?
A driving rh ythm of Chinese percussion fi lls the stage.
GALLIMARD: And then, China began to change. Mao became
very old, and fus cult became very stron . And, like
many old men, he entered his secon c
ood. So e
handed over the reins of state to those with minds like his
- own. And children ruled the Middle Kingdom with compiete°'caprice. The doctrine of the Cultural Revolution
implied continuous anarchy. Contact between Chinese
and foreigners became ·impossible. Our flat was confis. cated. Her fame and m y money now counted against us.
TOULON: Of course not. We don't care about the Americans . . We care about our mind. The ualit of our
ana ys1s. In general, everything you've predicted here in
the Onent ... just hasn't happened.
GALLIMARD: I think that's premature.
TOULON: Don't force me to be blunt. Okay, you said China
was ready to open to Western trade. The only thing
they're trading out there are Western heads. And, yes,
you said the Americans would succeed in Indochina. You
were kidding, right?
GALLIMARD: I think the end is in sight .
Two dancers in Mao suits and red-starred caps enter, and begin
cru e y mimicking revolutionary vio ence, in an a tt ro
TOULON: Don't be pathetic. And don't take this personally.
You were wrong. It's not your fault.
GALLIMARD: And somehow the American war went wrong
too . Four hundred thousand dollars were bemg spent fo r
every V1et Cong killed; so General Westmoceland's re~
mark that the Oriental does not value life the way Americ ans do was oddly accurate Why weren't the Vietnamese
p eople giving in? Why were they content instead to die
and die and die again?
GALLIMARD: But I'm going home.
TouLON: Congratu la rioo s Gallimard..
GALLIMARD: Excuse me, sir?
TouLON: Not a promotion T hat was last time. You're__
TOULON: Don't say I didn't warn you.
TOULON: Right. Could I have the number of your mistress?
(Beat) Joke! Joke! Eat a croissaiit for me.
Toulon exits. Son wearin a Mao suit is dra ed in .from the
.wings as part of the upstage dance. They "beat" er, t en
] ampoon the acrobatics of the Ch inese opera as she is made to
GALLIMARD (Simultaneously) : I don't care to recall how Butterfly and I said our hurried farewell. Perhaps it was
better to end our affair t5efore 1t killed her.
Gallimard exits. Comrade Chin walks across the stage with a
banner rea ing: "The Actor Renounces
e reac es t e nee ing Sang Percussion stops with a ,
thud. Dancers strike poses.
ACT TWO, Scene Ten
CHIN: Actor-oppressor, for a ears you have lived above the
common people n:id look@- down oo thei r labor. While
'"11ie1'armer ate millet-
SoNG: I ate pastries from France and sweetmeats from silver
CHIN: And how did you come to live in such an exalted
SONG: I was a plaything for the imperialists!
SONG: I want to serve the people!
Dancers regain their revolutionar smiles and be in a dance
SONG: I want to serve the people!! ,
Dancers unveil a banner: "The Actor Is Rehabilitated!" Son
remains kneeling befo re Chin, as the dancers ounce around
them, then exit. Music out.
C HIN: What did you do?
SONG: I shamed China
by a foreigner . . .
by allowing m yself to be corrupted
CHIN: What does this mean? The People demand a full
~ONG: I engaged in the lowest perversion s witb C bio a's
CHIN: What perversions? Be more clear!
A commune. Hunan Province. 1970.
CHIN: How you planning to do that?
SONG: I've already worked four years in the fields of Hunan, Comrade Chin,.
SONG: I let him put it up m y ass!
QEncers look over, disgusted.
CHIN: Aaaa-ya! How can you use such sickening language? t
language ... is only as foul as the crimes
CHIN: So? Farmers work all their lives. Let me see your
Song holds them out for her inspection.
CHIN: Yeah. That's better. So--what do you want to do
CHIN: Goddamn! Still so smooth! How Ion does it take to
turn you actors mto goo anyt m gs? Hunh. You've JUSt
spent too many years in luxury to be any good to the
SONG: I want to serve the people.
SoNG: I served the Revolution.
Percussion starts up, with Chinese strings.
CHIN: Serve the Revolution? Bullshit! You wore dresses!
Don' ( tell me-I was there. I saw you! You and your
white vice-consul! Stuck up there in your flat, living off
ACT TWO, Scene Eleven
the People's Treas-ury! Yeah, I knew what was going on!
Yc:m two ... homos. Homos. Homos. ause· s e comoses erse
e . . . you wi}l serve the people, all
right. But not wit t e evo utton s money. T is time.
you use your own mone_y.
rebrain, the nitwit! You think
you're so smart? You understand "The m o a an .
'Good! Then you go to France and be a pervert for Ch~
Chin and Song exit in opposite directions.
SONG: I have no money.
CHIN: Shut up! And you won't stink up China anymore
with your pervert stuff. You'll pollute the place where
__ pollut10n begins-the West.
SONG: What do you mean?
to France. Without a cent in
your pocket. You find your consul's house, you ma e
him pay your expensesSoNG: No .
CHIN: And you give us weekly reports! Useful information!
?ONG: That's crazy. It's been four years.
Gallimard enters .
GALLIMARD: And what was waiting for me back in Paris?
Well, better C hinese food than I'd eaten in China. Friends
and relatives. A ltttle accountmg, regular schedule, keepTng track "of traffic violations in the suburbs. . . . And the
indi nit of students shoutin the slo ans of Chairman
CHIN: Either that, or back to rehabilitation center!
_SONG: Comrade Chin, he's not going to support me! Not in
France! He's a w hite man! I was just bis p]a ythjn~CHIN: Oh yuck! Again with the sickening language? Where's
SONG: You don't understand the mind of a man.
CHIN: Oh no? No I don'~? Then how come I'm married,
huh? How come I got a man? Five, six years ago, you
· always tell me those kind of things, I felt very bad. But
not now! Because what does the Chairman say;> He tells
us I'm now the smart one, you're now the nincompoop!_
HELGA: Rene? Rene? (She enters, soaking wet) I've had a ... a
problem. (She sneezes)
GALLIMARD: You're wet.
HELGA: Yes, I ... corning back from the grocer's. A group
of students, waving red flags, they-
Gallimard fetches a towel.
HELGA: -they ran by, I was caught up along with them.
Before I knew what was happening-
Gallimard gives her the towel.
HELGA: Thank you. The police started firing water cannons
at us. I tried to shout, to tell them I was the wife of a
GALLIMARD: Helga, I want a divorce.
ACT TWO, Scene Eleven
Pause; Gallimard continues, mopping the floor.
GALLIMARD: What's-? Well, nothing cea!ly
HELGA: I take it back. China is . . . beautiful. Incense, I like
HELGA: Nothing?! The storefronts are in flames, there's
glass in the streets, buildings are toppling-and I'm wet!
GALLIMARD: I've had a mistress.
GALLIMARD: Nothing! ... that I care to think about.
HELGA: And is that why you stay in this room?
GALLIMARD: For eight yea rs.
GALLIMARD : Yes, in fact.
ou would the da
married you. And now w at? You want to marry her?
HELGA: With the incense burning? You know something? I
hate incense. It smells s? sickly sweet.
GALLIMARD: Well, I hate the French. Who j ust smell-period!
H ELGA: And the Chinese were better?
HELGA:J. see Y,m urw t tq leave. For someone who's not
here, is that right?
GALLIMARD: Please-don't start.
GALLIMARD: That's right.
HELGA: When we left, this exact same thiog the ciors
HELGA: You can't live with her, but still you don't want to
live with me.
GALLIMARD: No, no ...
HELGA: Students screaming slogans, smashing down doors-GALLIMARD: Helga-
GALLIMARD: I can't. She's in China_
GALLIMARD: That's right.
H elga's towel, begins mopping up the floor)
HELGA: Shit. How terrible that I can figure that out. (Pause}
I never thought I'd say it. But, in China, I was happy. I
knew, in my own way, I knew that you w ere not everything you pretended to be. But the pretense-going on
your arm to the embassy ball, visiting your office and the
guards saying, "Good morning, good morning, Madame
Gallimard"-the pretense . . . was very good indeed.
(Pause) I hope everyone is mean to you for the rest of
your life. (She exits) _
HELGA: But it's the truth!
HELGA: It was all going on m China, too. Don't you
GALLIMARD: Helga! Please! (Pause) You have never understood China
? y OU walk in here with these
r 1cu ous ideas, that the West is falling apart, that China
was spitting in our fa cer, You come m, dnppmg of the
streets, and you leave water all over my floor. (He grabs
(To us): Prophetic \
ACT TWO, Scene Eleven
Marc enters with two drinks.
Mqrq· Io Cbioa I was different from all
I once loved, and was loved by, very simply, the Perfect
Song enters, dressed as Butte,jly in wedding dress .
MARc;,...Snre You w ere wbire
Here's yonr dtiok.
GALLIMARD: I felt . . . touched.
MARC: In the head? Rene, I don't want to hear about the
Oriental love goddess. Okay?· One night-can we just
drink and throw up without a lot of conversation?
GALLIMARD (To Song): Not again My imagination is hell,.
Am I asleep this time?Or did I drink too much?
GALLiMARD: God, it's too painful! That you speak?
SONG: What are you talking about? Rene-..-tanch me.
G.ALLIMARD: You still don't believe me, do you?
GALLIMARD: Why ?
MARC: Sure I do. She was the most beautiful, et cetera, et
cetera, blase blase.
SONG: I'm real. Take m y hand.
GALLIMARD: My life in the West has beeo such a disappointment.
. GALLIMARD: Wh ? So ou can disappear again and leave me
air? For the entertamment o m ne1
Song touches Gallimard.
MARC: Life in the West is like that. You'll get used to it.
Look, you're dnvmg me away. I'm leaving. Happy, now?
(He exits, then returns) Look, I have a date tomorrow
Eight. You w anna come? I can fix you up with-
GALLIMARD: Of course. I would love to come.
SONG: You hadn't ... forgotten-?
MARC: Uh-on second thought, no. You'd better get ahold
of yourself first.
He exits; Gallimard nurses his drink .
GALLIMARD (To us): This is the ultimate cruelty, isn't it?
That I can talk and talk and to anyone listening, it's
only air-too rich a diet .to be swallowed by a mundane
world. Why can't anyone understand? That in China,
Gallimard takes Song's hand. Silence .
GALLIMARD: Butterfly? I never doubted you'd return.
GALLIMARD: Yes, actually , I've forgotten everything. My
mind, you see--there wasn't enough room in this hard
head-not for the world and for you. No, there was only
· room for one. (Beat) Come, look. See? Your bed has
. been waiting, with the Klimt poster you like, and-see?
The xiang lu [incen~e burner] ·you gave me?
SONG: I ... I don't know what to say.
GALLIMARD: There's nothing to say. Not at the end of a
long trip. Can I make you some tea?
ACT TWO, Scene Eleven
SONG: But where's your wife?
She's by my side. She's by my side at last.
Gallimard reaches to embrace Song. Song sidesteps, dodging
· SONG (To us): So I did return to Rene in Paris. Where I
· foundGALLIMARD: Why do you run away? Can't we show them
how we embraced that evening.?
SONG: Please. I'm talki~ .
GALLIMARD : You have to do.. what I say! I'm conjuring you
up in my mind!
SONG: Rene, I've never done what you've said. Why should
it be any different in your mind? Now split-the story
moves on, and I must change.
I welcomed you into my home! I didn't have
to, you know' I cou ld've left you penoiless on the streets
of Paris! But I took yon io '
SONG: Thank you .
So ... please . . . don't change.
SONG: You know I have to. You know I will. And anyway,
what difference does it make? No matter what your eyes
tell you, you can't ignore the truth. You already know
Gallimard exits. Song turns to
SONG: The change I'm going to make requires about five
minutes. So I thongbr you m1g bf want to take tfos oppor-
tunity to stretch your legs, enj oy a drink oc liit~R te t.b.e..
musicians . I'll be here, when you return, right where you
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