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The Sound of M Butterfly

David Henry Hwang + Emily Balcetis

Friday, December 8, 2017
7:00 PM–8:30 PM

What is the most mesmerizing music you’ve ever heard? The soaring melodies of an opera can leave us spellbound, with carefully sung notes evoking powerful emotions that go against the grain of reason.

David Henry Hwang builds upon this seductive nature of music in his Tony-award-winning play, M Butterfly. In this love story born at the opera, a French diplomat falls for a Chinese opera diva, leading to a twenty-year affair. In a relationship wrought with secrets, espionage, and betrayal, the protagonists wrestle with their truths and desires. Hwang takes to the Rubin stage with NYU psychologist Emily Balcetis to explore music’s role in the intrigue and mystery of a complex and moving story.

M Butterfly, starring Clive Owen and directed by Julie Taymor, runs from October 2017 to February 2018 at the Cort Theater.

About the Speakers


David Henry Hwang is a Tony Award® winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award® winner, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. In addition to M. Butterfly, his works includes the plays Chinglish, Yellow Face, Golden Child, Kung Fu, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author) and Disney’s Tarzan. He also updated the libretto for the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song. America’s most-produced living opera librettist, Hwang premiered his new opera, Dream of the Red Chamber (co-authored with Bright Sheng), at San Francisco Opera last fall. Hwang has been honored with the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright “Mimi” Award, a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and the 2015 IPSA Distinguished Artist Award. He has also been a long-time board member of Young Playwrights Inc. and the Lark Play Development Center. Hwang was recently the Residency One Playwright at New York’s Signature Theatre, and currently serves as Head of Playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts. He is currently a writer/producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series, The Affair, and was recently named Chair of the American Theatre Wing.

Emily Balcetis is an Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University. Her research focuses on motivation science. She has appeared as a host for National Geographic and as a guest on MSNBC, National Public Radio, and forums worldwide. Her work receives support from National Science Foundation and was recognized by the Federation of Association of Brain and Behavior Scientists, International Society for Self and Identity, Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology, and Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Currently, she is writing a trade book with Ballantine Books where she offers tactics for empowering perceptual experience to improve goal pursuit.


​Tickets: $25.00

Member Tickets: $22.50

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Student Tickets:$10.00

For select programs the museum offers $10 student-rate tickets. These tickets are availablein advance of the eventand can be purchased online, over the phone, or at the front desk. Tickets must be redeemed in person with the presentation of a student ID. Limited to one ticket per student ID.