Genny Lim’s play “Paper Angels” will be presented by SiS Productions — including a short run at a former Immigration and Naturalization Service facility in Seattle.

Share story

The plight of undocumented and un­welcomed refugees, displaced by war or extreme poverty, is an international crisis currently. But it is not a new story.

The play “Paper Angels” by Genny Lim takes place in 1915 on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, where some 175,000 Chinese tried to enter the U.S. between 1910 and 1940. However, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred most from setting foot on the mainland. (Later, all Chinese immigration was halted until 1943.)

SiS Productions presents Lim’s award-winning one-act, which sensitively observes a cross-section of those long detained by U.S. officials at Angel Island.

The script is based in part on poems written by detainees, which Lim and others collected in a 1980 anthology, “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigration on Angel Island, 1910-1940,” published by University of Washington Press.

The verses, carved onto wooden barracks walls of the island holding center, express the bitter anger and poignant hopes of those who spent months, even years waiting in legal limbo, uncertain whether they’d be accepted into the U.S. or deported back to China.

“Paper Angels” comes to the Dukesbay Theater, 508 S. Sixth Ave., Tacoma, Aug. 7-16, and INScape (in the former INS Building), 815 Seattle Blvd. S., Seattle, from Aug. 20-31. Ticket and other information: