Remembering Harry

DAVID HENRY HWANG

I have always admired and looked up to Harry as a true artist, for whom the act of creation seemed as vital and necessary as life itself. We met as students in drama school, and Harry’s support and encouragement through the years was consistent and nurturing. He knew what I was thinking sometimes before I did, and his responses were like his plays — funny, literate, pointed, and, at the end of the evening, unexpectedly moving in deep and mysterious ways. While directing one of my plays, Harry addressed my inevitable pre-opening jitters by inviting me up to his home for regular infusions of home-cooked soups and stews. A direct response to a convoluted problem; a solution of intuitive generosity and grace.

The last time I saw Harry was again for dinner, this time at a downtown restaurant which he told me I must try because the food really was excellent and could it be I had never been there before? He spoke of his illness with simple honesty and painful humor, even as he continued to share his plans for the future and, as always, his work. For no disease could stop Harry’s need and ability to create; in some sense, by transforming a virus’s random cruelty into an artistic legacy which will nurture others long after the disease itself has been eradicated, he even managed to re-create his own illness — into a messenger of life.

And so it is Harry’s life, his artistic power, and his ultimate victories which I remember today. Somewhere, someplace, that life is still creating, making us all richer, and for that fact, I am immensely grateful.