Chinese Whispers: Sierra StoriesSM is our pilot production developed as a California Story Fund project of the California Council on the Humanities. It is the result of four years of research and interviews by Artistic and Project Director Rene Yung to unearth and document handed-down folk memories of the Chinese in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and culminated in a multimedia storytelling event presented in collaboration with the Placer Arts Council at the Tower Theater in Roseville, CA, in August, 2009. The event is documented on a DVD.
Nine community tellers ranging from 19 to 90 years of age participated in the event, including 90-year old Adele Bellmer of Loomis who related stories from her family, and Virgil Wong of Grass Valley who acted as a proxy teller for elder members of the Wong family of Rocklin. Stories for the production covered a range of localities in Placer County, from Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Auburn, and Colfax, to Dutch Flat.
Rather than trying to re-create complete narratives out of fragmented records, the storytelling script highlights the fragmentary nature of the material in an evocative composition that reveals traces of the historical times, and poetically conveys “what we will never know for certain about these early Chinese men and women who helped build the American West,” as Yung wrote in her Introduction. She also developed the production to reinvigorate community stewardship in this overlooked part of their local history in the fast-changing Sierra Nevada region.