Last weekend I attended the Circle X Theatre Co.'s production of 'The Chinese Massacre (Annotated)' at the Atwater Village Theatre. Written by acclaimed Los Angeles playwright Tom Jacobson and based on a historical incident, the play is set against the backdrop of a shameful, horrific incident in Los Angeles history – the 1871 mob lynching of 18 Chinese men and boys.
Badly versed in history that I am, I wasn't even aware of the incident that the play is based on and was intrigued enough to want to learn more about it. I found this video that discusses that harrowing night:
Further adding to my status as an unprepared theatergoer, I didn't even know what 'annotated' meant in regards to the play, but discovered that it consisted of actors narrating parts of the action taking place on stage with historical facts or just personal insights. (As one narrator put it, they were similar to footnotes that you couldn't skip over.) The author intended these passages as a way to distance the viewer from the events taking place on stage, so that one interpreted them with their head as opposed to their heart. It took some getting used to at first, but this meta device became one of my favorite aspects of the play and I thought it added another dimension to the story. Then again, I'm one of those people that actually reads footnotes and instruction manuals from cover to cover.
I'm not a theater reviewer (*stating the obvious*) but as I've said about abstract art and about things wrapped in bacon, "I know what I like." I enjoyed the play, the clever staging and the outstanding performances by the actors. But more importantly I appreciated how it brought this historical event into the consciousness of me and everyone in the audience that night. A fitting way to spend an evening during Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
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'The Chinese Massacre (Annotated)' plays through Saturday, May 28. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Atwater Village Theatre is located at:
3269 Casitas Ave., LA CA 90039.