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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 28, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 35
Paper Angels a beautifully written and compelling story
Arts & Entertainment
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Paper Angels a beautifully written and compelling story

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

PAPER ANGELS
SIS PRODUCTIONS
(THE LAB AT INSCAPE)
Through August 31


Hurry over to the old INS building (INScape Arts, 815 Seattle Blvd. S., near S. Dearborn St.) to the performance space 'INScape' to see a beautifully written play revealing another example of American injustice toward immigrants! Paper Angels, by poet and playwright Genny Lim, focuses on the immigration center on Angel Island, a large island in the middle of San Francisco Bay that processed a million Asians through its doors. However, there were extra-special rules for Chinese.

Have you ever heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? It's not likely taught in very many American History classes in high school, but it reflected attitudes of resentment against Chinese workers - a ubiquitous ethnic exclusion that was focused only on Chinese while unfettered immigration of any other backgrounds was unchecked.

The play introduces a few of the many kinds of immigrants who wished to enter the U.S. All would have had to carry paper with them certifying that they were eligible to enter. Some of them carried identification that they were sons of Chinese immigrants already in the States. They were called 'paper sons,' but not all of them were related to the men they were coming to join.

Some men were forced to sell their sons' papers for various reasons, to raise money, so the immigration center personnel quizzed both the men and their 'paper sons' to find out if each knew all the facts about the other they were supposed to know. So, cheat books were developed with all sorts of facts for the immigrant to memorize about his 'father's' family, but anyone caught with them was prevented from entering the U.S.

This long one act is simply presented with a stark wooden barracks-style set by Brandon Estrella, carved with Chinese poems from years of immigrants waiting to be released. Appropriate period costuming by Miko Premo provides easy identification of the inmates, the guards, and the officials. David Hsieh directs with clarity and sensitivity.

Each role in the production is double cast (in part to allow more actors of color the opportunity to participate), so you'll never see the exact same set of players from one show to the next. For the performance I saw, Kathy Hsieh was the leading lady in a heartbreaking role of a patient Chinese wife whose husband left 40 years before, but then returned to bring her, somewhat unwillingly, to America. Hsieh ably demonstrated the restraint and patience of the character, along with her desire to help others.

This weekend that role will be played by Eloisa Cardona. There is one extra performance scheduled, now, since the production has been selling out!

The rest of the cast that I saw was strong (and large). A few had to speak Chinese, which they appeared to do with aplomb as far as I could tell... Chris Wong played the husband who left his wife behind and returned to get her, even though it meant he had to reapply to enter the U.S. without guarantee of success. Wong has a moving, sturdy, wise presence in the role.

The star of the show, though, is the language of Lim. Though she is writing about history, her choices are precise and elucidating. She weaves a defined tapestry of characters whose lives we can experience and identify with. Those who can get tickets will appreciate and remember this production!

For more information, go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1789709.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at miryamstheatermusings.blogspot.com. The 2015 Intiman Theatre Festival continues in full swing at The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center (201 Mercer St.) with John Baxter is a Switch Hitter, a big, new comedy by local playwrights Ana Brown and Andrew Russell, inspired by an outrageous-but-true story that hits close to home: the 2008 Gay Softball World Series held in Seattle.

When local Gay softball league favorites the Seattle Fireflies go up against the champion San Francisco Hornets, an all-American pastime turns into an impromptu inquisition as one team halts the game to accuse their opponent of having too many 'straight ringers' on their roster.

Veteran Seattle director Rosa Joshi leads a vibrant cast of 18 local actors ranging from festival veterans like Adam Standley and Charles Leggett, to other well-known Seattle artists like Reginald André Jackson and Chris Ensweiler.

'Like many classic American plays, John Baxter is a Switch Hitter directs a very focused lens into one specific community in order to reflect universal truths about the larger world,' says Joshi. 'Through the metaphor of the great American pastime, Ana and Andrew ask us: If people of goodwill can't get to the first base of co-existence, what hope is there for any of us? It's a big question - posed with incredible humor, joy, and theatricality in this big play - that challenges us to embrace a broader sense of humanity.'

John Baxter is a Switch Hitter is the latest installment of Intiman's popular 'Start Up Stagings' new play initiative (Miracle!, Stu for Silverton), dedicated to commissioning, developing, and producing new works that represent Intiman's mission to champion diverse protagonists.

Tickets: Single tickets start at $20; discount festival passes available to see this play and The Children's Hour - even in the same day; on sale at intiman.org or call (206) 315-5838.

Intiman's Community Partner for John Baxter is a Switch Hitter is the Pride Foundation, a regional community foundation that inspires giving to expand opportunities and advance full equality for LGBTQ people across the Northwest.

About the 2015 Intiman Theatre Festival
The 2015 Intiman Theatre Festival, 'The Hunt Is On,' explores how communities treat those who live on the fringe; it began in July with a critically acclaimed, immersive restaging of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending at 12th Ave Arts on Capitol Hill.

John Baxter is a Switch Hitter runs August 18 - September 27.

The festival continues September 9 - 27 with Lillian Hellman's controversial classic The Children's Hour - re-set by director Sheila Daniels in 1980s Seattle - performing in repertory with John Baxter is a Switch Hitter at The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.

Robert O'Hara's breakout hit play Bootycandy - a semi-biographical, subversive satire that weaves together scenes, sketches, and daring meta-theatrics to portray growing up Gay and black - concludes the festival September 16 - October 3 in the Alhadeff Studio at Cornish Playhouse.

New this year, Intiman offers $20 tickets for a wide variety of patrons, including artists; students and educators; nonprofit employees; retail/service industry employees; government/public sector employees; and members of the military. Single tickets and discount festival passes are on sale now at intiman.org or call (206) 315-5838.

Support for the 2015 Intiman Theatre Festival is also generously provided in part by the Raynier Institute & Foundation, Nitze-Stagen, Seattle Met, Edelman, KING5, 4Culture, SeattlePI.com, Hafer Family Foundation, Shubert Foundation, The Stranger, CityArts, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, BECU, and a dedicated community of individual supporters.

About Intiman Theatre
Intiman is a professional and socially progressive theatre that produces an annual theatre festival that is relevant to our time, and as diverse as the community in which we live.

In 2014, Intiman presented a 20th anniversary production of both parts of Tony Kushner's epic Angels in America; and won a Seattle Times Footlight Award for Top Mainstage Play.

In 2013, Intiman won the Seattle Times' Footlight Awards for Best New Musical and Great Performances for its production of Stu for Silverton, a new musical about the first openly transgender mayor in America heralded by the Times as 'groundbreaking.'

Another 2013 festival play, Trouble in Mind - written in 1955 by celebrated African-American playwright Alice Childress - had one reviewer weeping through the curtain call, calling it theatre that 'bring[s] us face-to-face with our collective humanity.'

For more information, visit intiman.org and follow Intiman on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Courtesy of Intiman Theatre

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