On Tuesday, Tony Award-winning actor B.D. Wong from NBC’s Law and Order: SVU and HBO’s Oz gave a speech in Hoyt Auditorium to a packed audience. His speech, entitled “All the World’s a Stage: From Exclusion to Inclusion,” not only detailed his hardships in life due to racial self-image, race-based rejection and diversity, but also how he overcame them and used them to grow as an individual and an actor.
Wong has been coming to speak at colleges, universities and high schools, as well as corporations and conferences for over 10 years, and it has yet to become a chore to him.
“I started visiting colleges, and what I noticed was the growing discussion of diversity and all the things related to that,” Wong said. “I have found that the best way to demystify difference is by discussing one’s own personal experiences and stories. It is so rewarding, so I have allowed it to become more and more important in my life.”
As a third-generation Chinese-American from San Francisco, Calif., Wong understands being different. He has also openly admitted his homosexuality and has been incorporating both gay and lesbian issues, as well as the racial diversity issues, into his talks at universities.
He notes in his lecture how people perceive the stigmas between race and sexuality to be very similar. For a long time, Wong was in denial over his ethnicity and refused to accept that part of him. It was only after a run in David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly,” a Broadway play that deals with cultural stereotypes of the East and West, that Wong truly began to embrace his heritage and ethnicity for the first time in his life.
The one thing that Wong hopes to achieve most of all from these lectures he gives is to communicate with his audience.
“I want in every moment of my life to connect or for someone to connect with me,” Wong said. “I am enlivened and gratified by anything to feel like I can reach people. That is the real reason to be famous – to use the fame to create a change in the molecules in the air, to spark dialogue.”
The event was organized and financed by the Chinese Students’ Association and the Campus Activities Board. Other groups that contributed financially were the College Diversity Roundtable and PRIDE. Groups that helped to advertise the event across campus were Apa-Hip, the Minority Student Advisory Board, Pi Delta Psi, OBOC, the Theatre Program and UR Cinema Group.
“As an openly gay Asian-American actor, B.D. has much experience with racism, rejection and diversity and therefore, students would be able to learn a lot from him,” Chinese Students’ Association Senior Senator and senior Sherry Chen said. “We thought that ‘An Evening with B.D. Wong’ was quite successful and we received a lot of positive feedback about the lecture and the discussions.”
Halusic is a member of the class of 2010.