M. Butterfly

By David Henry Hwang. Directed by Jeffrey Bracco.
1988 Tony Award for Best Play, Pulitzer Prize nominee.
A TBA Awards Recommended production.
March 19-April 19, 2015Scroll down for details and special events! 


Why you should see M. Butterfly

Because it’s a modern classic. Tony Award for Best Play? Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play? Pulitzer Prize nominee? Check, check, and check.
Because it makes points about East-West relations that are just as relevant today as in 1904, when Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly premiered.
Because Gallimard’s monologues will pretty much slay you.
Because N. Louie. Trust us. This is one young actor to watch.


Opera singer Song Liling (N. Louie, center) takes the stage with two kurogo dancers (Lee-Ron, Jessica Do). Photos by Mike Ko / siliconvalleydesigns.com.



Drawn from real-life events, this modern classic weaves realism, ritual, and vivid theatricality into an exotic and haunting tale of a French diplomat’s gradual, inevitable submission to the delicate charms of a Chinese opera star who personifies his fantasy vision of submissive oriental sexuality. M. Butterfly underscores the irony of that fantasy as it closely parallels the events of Puccini’s famous opera Madame Butterfly and becomes a powerful exploration of East-West relations and the persistent romanticism that continues to cloud and complicate them to this day.

Note: M. Butterfly is a powerful, provocative play with full nudity and adult themes. It’s intended for mature audiences ages 17 and up.

A Brooklyn playwright, librettist, and screenwriter, David Henry Hwang often explores issues of identity and ethnicity. He’s the writer behind the plays Golden Child, Yellow Face, and Chinglish, among others, and the new book for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song.


What people are saying about our production

“Extraordinary play being given an excellent production at City Lights … Kit Wilder (gives a) tour de force performance.”  –Paul Myrvold’s Theatre Notes

“Hwang’s twisty writing and ambitious tackling of big themes, and the powerhouse performances of Wilder and Louie make City Lights’ M. Butterfly a standout.”  -Karla Kane, Metro

“Brilliant, deeply layered play. … Get there early to watch kurogo dancers Jessica Do and Lee-Ron, who are very slowly moving on stage when the doors are open, a good 30 minutes before the show begins. Kurogo dancers are a form borrowed from Kabuki, black-clad stage assistants.”  -John Orr, Regarding Arts

“Another compelling piece of theater by CLTC. Kudos to all.”  -patron Bill Ereneta


In a prison cell, French diplomat Rene Gallimard (Kit Wilder) is lost in reveries of his life.



Rene Gallimard: Kit Wilder*
Song Liling: N. Louie
Helga: April Green
Marc/Toulon: Keith Marshall
Comrade Chin/Suzuki: Christina Chu
Renee/Girl: Laura Espino
Kurogo: Jessica Do, Lee-Ron
* Member, Actors’ Equity Association

Diplomat Rene Gallimard (Kit Wilder) encounters a gregarious young student (Laura Espino) at a party.



Learn more about M. Butterfly by reading our dramaturg’s guide, Highlights. Read a Q&A with the director, delve into the politics and history behind the script, and get better acquainted with the playwright.


Details and special events

Performances: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. One Wednesday show, on April 15, at 8 p.m.
No performances on March 22 and April 5.

Tickets: $17-$32. Discounts for seniors and students/educators. Buy online and pay no fees! ($2 surcharge for phone and in-person purchases; closing weekend is also subject to a $2 increase.)

Thursday, March 19: Pay What You Can Night.
Friday, March 20: Preview Night ($17).
Saturday, March 21: Opening Night celebration: $35 general, $30 seniors, $19 students/educators.
Friday, April 10: On this night, we’ll donate 25 percent of proceeds from regular-priced single tickets to The LGBTQ Youth Space, a program of Family & Children Services. The Youth Space, our nonprofit partner for this production, is a community drop-in center and mental health program at 452 S. First St. It serves Santa Clara County lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally youth and young adults ages 13-25. (You can also help The Youth Space by entering the promo code “Youth” when buying tickets for any performance of M. Butterfly.)



Wednesday, April 15: Our special Wednesday performance! General-admission tickets are $20.

The City Lights theater, located at 529 S. Second St. in downtown San Jose, is wheelchair-accessible. Secured parking is available on most nights for $5 at Notre Dame High School across the street from the theater. Call 408-295-4200 to check parking availability for your performance.