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PAPER DREAM follows the story about a prideful Chinese woman who enlists a ghostly creature's aid to connect with her lost daughter in 1930s' Angel Island Detention Center. Guided by a riddle, she transfers her affection to her stepdaughter and blindly ostracizes a young woman she deemed as a bad influence for the latter, leading to devastating consequences. 

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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Museum of Chinese in America is proud to collaborate with Playwright Lyra Nalan to present a staged reading of PAPER DREAM in remembrance of women detainees on Angel Island, the chief port of entry for Chinese and other immigrants from Asia.

Popularly known as “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island immigration station was created in 1910. Different from Ellis Island, which reinforced the U.S. immigration laws that restricted but not excluded European immigrants, it enforced immigration policies that singled out Asians for exclusion, particularly Chinese immigrants, after the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Cases involving Chinese received particular scrutiny due to perceived widespread attempts to circumvent Chinese exclusion through purchasing the papers and identity of Chinese American citizens, or “paper son” system. To ascertain false claims, Chinese were subjected to interrogations with detailed questions concerning family history, relationships and day-to-day life that typically lasted two to three days, and sometimes even longer. Because of these harsh interrogations, Chinese immigrants had one of the highest rejection rates at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Chinese also made up the majority of the detainee population, around 70%. Between 200 and 300 men and 30 to 50 women were detained at any given time (The Making of Asian America, Erica Lee, pp. 96-100).

Set in 1930, PAPER DREAM follows the story of a former Chinese aristocrat attempting to bring her daughter to America but finding herself trapped in Angel Island Detention Center with a working-class mother and a young woman with a questionable past.

March 9, 2024
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

About Playwright Lyra Nalan

Lyra Nalan is a Chinese playwright based in Brooklyn. She received the Judith Royer Award for the play “Paper Dream” and has been nominated for the Susan Blackburn Smith Prize and the Smith Prize for Political Theatre. Her work has been showcased or developed at the Kennedy Center, Cherry Lane Theatre, Miranda Theatre, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, Adventure Theatre MTC, Avant Bard Theatre, among others. Lyra is currently working on a commissioned project with Silk Road Rising Theatre, is a Three Brothers Theatre Resident Playwright, NY-playground Writer, and BMI bookwriter. Lyra is incredibly grateful and thrilled to collaborate with MOCA! Lyranalan.com.

About Director Nina Zoie Lam

Nina Zoie Lam is a former modern dancer with Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan turned musical theater performer for 25 years; now a director, dramaturg, educator and co-founder of National Asian Artists Project. Nina made her Broadway debut in the original company of Miss Saigon, danced in national touring companies of King and I, A Funny Thing Happened…Forum, A Chorus Line among other shows. Directing credits include national tours of King and I, Bombay Dream, Miss Saigon, Cinderella at New York City Opera, works at Joe’s Pub, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYU and Berklee College of Music Graduate Musical Theatre program. Nina is a Brown University graduate.

Special thanks to the developmental reading with the Miranda Theatre Company’s Liz Smith Reading in 2020 and Playwright’s Grant.