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Chinatown Opera Theater in North America$
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Nancy Yunhwa Rao

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040566

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040566.001.0001

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The Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinatown Theaters

The Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinatown Theaters

(p.40) Chapter 2 The Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinatown Theaters
Chinatown Opera Theater in North America

Nancy Yunhwa Rao

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on immigration policies in the United States and how they impacted Chinatown opera theaters from their burgeoning in the nineteenth century through the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and into the early twentieth century. Whereas Chinese theaters rose to prominent entertainment in the 1870s, with four concurrent theaters in San Francisco, late nineteenth century exclusionary regulations severely curtailed previously vibrant Chinatown opera theaters. It eventually cut off the flow of performers and limiting companies’ performance opportunities by early 20th century. The chapter identifies a turning point when the continuing demand for Chinese performers prompted American entrepreneurs and others to circumvent U.S. policies and advocate for exceptions to the stultifying rules in the second decade of the20th century. As a result, increasingly itinerant performers were allowed to cross national borders, and theaters were allowed to stage performances, but each existed in a precarious relationship with immigration officials and boards that enforced exclusionary principles and practices.

Keywords:   Chinese Exclusion, San Francisco, Chinese ordinance, Burlingame Treaty, In re Ho King, New York, world’s fair, yellowface, Barnum & Baily, vaudeville, Long Tack Sam, Chinese fetish, immigration bureau

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