SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — “The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin” is currently running at the San Francisco Playhouse through June 18, and it is a play that does not shy away from the challenging parts of American history. KRON4 spoke with the show’s director Jeffrey Lo and lead actor Jomar Tagatac about the importance of this story being told here in San Francisco, and how they feel coming back to the theater after the pandemic.
Video courtesy of San Francisco Playhouse, filmed by Adam Elder
“The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin” highlights the immigration policy known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, which enacted a ten-year ban on Chinese laborers immigrating to the U.S. The play follows a Chinese national, Harry Chin, as he buys forged immigration papers and makes his way in America. Lead actor Jomar Tagatac feels this is a story that needs to be told, “The more diverse stories we can tell in the theater, or any sort of artistic medium, the better.”
Tagatac is a proud Bay Area actor, “I believe in the theater here in the Bay Area. San Francisco is not Los Angeles, San Francisco is not New York … let’s not forget that the talent pool here in San Francisco is deep.”
When COVID first shuttered theater doors in 2020, Tagatac along with many other actors was suddenly out of a job. Tagatac’s theater shifted to online shows, but not everyone was so lucky. He says it took time to get back to the stage, and he’s thankful to be back even with new protocols. Tagatac noted that San Francisco Playhouse COVID protocol requires the actors to be tested twice weekly.
Director Jeffrey Lo currently has three shows running on various stages around San Francisco, two of which he wrote. “Balikbayan Box” at TheatreFirstAs closes tomorrow night, and Waiting for Next which closes next week.
Lo describes the work ethic and talent in the “Paper Dreams” cast and crew as very strong, but highlighted the stage design by Christopher Fitzer for the show. “He created this really beautiful and complex scenic design for the show that in a lot of ways feels like a Rubiks cube.” This ‘Rubiks cube’ set also happens to spin on an axis.
In light of the recent rise in AAPI hate, Lo and Tagatac are both glad to see this play being put up here in San Francisco, “Being so close to Chinatown in San Francisco, and being able to uplift the story in a way for the folks of that community and their children and grandchildren has been a wonderful experience,” Lo told KRON4.
“The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin” leans into the challenges experienced by its lead character, and Lo says that’s part of it’s beauty. As a Filipino American who has seen others go through the immigration journey, he is happy to be telling this story, “It’s about accepting your past instead of hiding it or pretending it didn’t happen” Lo said.