Cover photo by Shane Coffey

The Chinese Massacre (Annotated)

Tom Jacobson
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Based on historical incident, the play chronicles the first race riot in Los Angeles history: the 1871 lynching of 18 Chinese men by a mob of 500 “people from all nations.” Tom Jacobson’s fiercely theatrical retelling brings to light the remarkable, culturally diverse 19th-century Wild West town that exploded into the metropolis we know today.

Production Info

Cast: 14 total (4 female, 10 male)
Full Length Drama (about 120 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Period Costumes
Category: Tags: ,

Press Quotes

“THE CHINESE MASSACRE (ANNOTATED), Tom Jacobson’s rousing new play, is like a fun day at Disneyland. Jacobson chronicles the 1871 lynching of 18 Chinese men by a mixed-race mob, historically considered to be Los Angeles’s first race riot. Actors break the fourth wall by expounding on exposition and commentating on chaos, thus the ‘annotated’ in the title. With 14 astounding actors playing over 30 parts, the characters’ contrapuntal conversations can be cacophonous, and the masterful dialects are sometimes unintelligible, but this hugely theatrical historical interpretation is an imaginative, sprawling epic that captivates and charms. With actors popping up and down like shooting gallery targets, gunfights, reenactments of the past, delicious historical tidbits, and clever, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, THE CHINESE MASSACRE (ANNOTATED) is a theatrical Frontierland – but better. You won’t see mass murder, syphilis, and herb-induced abortions at the Happiest Place on Earth.” —Tony Frankel, Los Angeles Theater

“THE CHINESE MASSACRE manages to be emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating as well, but the emotional impact is mostly due to the sheer drama of its events rather than their presentation within Jacobson’s play. This might be exactly what Jacobson intended. The (ANNOTATED) in the subtitle means that actors frequently stop the proceedings and speak from the sidelines directly to the audience, offering historical footnotes, candid confessions of the artistic license taken by the playwright, and comparisons of their own comments to the techniques employed by Brecht in his epic theater – which was designed to make spectators think about what’s happening, at the expense of emotional reactions.” —Don Shirley, L A Stage Times

“THE CHINESE MASSACRE is a prodigiously researched, self-consciously Brechtian parable about what may be L A’s first officially recorded race riot in 1871. A number of ‘annotators’ playfully interrupt the action to identify historical inaccuracies that have been interjected for the flow of the story — and, citing Brecht’s style of epic theater, to prevent the play’s larger ideas from being overpowered by our emotional reaction to various lynchings and other brutalities depicted on the stage. Those ideas swirl around the essences of ethnic bigotry that just seem to keep recycling themselves, like our race riots, as the decades roll by.” —Steven Leigh Morris, L A Weekly

About the Author


  • Tom Jacobson

    Tom Jacobson has had more than 80 productions of his plays, including SPERM at Circle X Theatre Company, THE ORANGE GROVE at Playwrights Arena, and the award-winning BUNBURY, TAINTED BLOOD, OUROBOROS and THE FRIENDLY HOUR at The Road Theatre Company. THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WAY premiered at The Theatre @ Boston Court and the New York International Fringe Festival (five Ovation Award nominations, four Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle nominations, one GLAAD Award nomination, Fringe Festival Award for Outstanding Production of a Play, PEN Center Award for Drama) and moved Off Broadway to Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. MAKING PARADISE: THE WEST HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL was produced by Cornerstone Theater Company (Critic's Choice in Back Stage West). He has been a co-literary manager of The Theatre @ Boston Court, a founding member of Playwrights Ink, and a board member of Cornerstone Theater Company and The Theatre @ Boston Court. Most recent productions include the world premieres of THE CHINESE MASSACRE (ANNOTATED) at Circle X and HOUSE OF THE RISING SON at Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA (Critic's Choice in Back Stage West and Los Angeles Times, nominated for a GLAAD Award and winner of two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards). Film: PRAIRIE SONATA (based on THE FRIENDLY HOUR). Opera: HOPSCOTCH, commissioned by The Industry.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 3/7/2013
Pages 90
ISBN 9780881455557

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

World premiere by Circle X Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre in Los Angeles

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
The Chinese Massacre (Annotated) is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


10/22/2021 – 10/24/2021
Chinese American Museum
Los Angeles, CA