This will be a fun afternoon with author, playwright, and acoustic punk raconteur, Alvin Eng and myself. Alvin and I haven’t lived in Chinatown, but my late dad was born & raised there. I feel blessed to introduce Illegal to my dad’s hometown, alongside his cousin, Alvin!

Alvin will read from his new memoir, Our Laundry, Our Town, and I will perform a few songs from Illegal: A New Musical. We may have a little surprise to share as well. Come join us!

Date: Sunday, June 12, 2022
Time: 3:00-4:30pm
Location: 21 Pell Street, NYC
Admission: Free, limited seating, first-come, first-served
Facebook event link:

Celebrate Immigrant Heritage: AAPI History And Storytelling With Illegal: A New Musical

During this live event, Composers Skyler Chin and Sita Sunil will give a presentation about Asian American history, how historical anti-Asian bias and racism have shaped today’s society, and how we can use storytelling to respond to pandemic-era anti-Asian hate, combat prejudice, instigate justice, and inspire empathy. To demonstrate the power of storytelling in action, a few songs from Illegal will be performed; and the presentation will conclude with a Q&A with the musical’s creative team. This event will be presented twice, on 4/21 and 4/28, at 6:30-7:30pm.

QPL does not require registration – just join the zoom sessions listed here:

If you can let the Illegal team know that you plan to attend or if you have any questions to ask in advance, please message us here. Thank you!

by Student Blogger: Rosanna Gao 
Co-written by Iris Liu
March 16, 2022  

On March 12th at eight in the evening, the Munsey Park Auditorium hosted a musical performance named Illegal: A New Musical by theater graduates of Yale University. With Skyler Chin as its writer, Olivia Facini as its producer, Sita Sunil as its co-composer, Iris Liu as the student producer, and Annissa Gao as the photographer. The show gathered more than 1,000 audience members from 3/11 to 3/12 and received an uproaring reaction from its audience who gave standing ovations for both days of the performance.

Congresswoman Grace Meng also attended the performance on March 12th with her family and awarded Skyler Chin’s outstanding performance with the nomination of 3/12 as “Skyler Chin Day”. She said, “It touches me that young Chinese American students are making a production based on our culture. They are trying to teach America Chinese-American history, and that is so important.”

Illegal: A New Musical is a historical fiction, rap-rock musical that utilizes a humorous approach to portray the story of the first “Illegal” Chinese-American citizens during the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Inspired by the 1923 detainment and interrogation of Skyler’s grandfather on Angel Island, Illegal confronts the history of anti-Asian prejudice that Chinese Americans experienced during the Chinese Exclusion era and that many still face a century later.

“History always repeats itself. Looking around us, the hatred, violence, and rejection towards Chinese Americans are still ongoing. I hope this musical will draw attention to the unfair treatment that Chinese Americans have been subjected to, especially during this age when such injustices are still predominant in our daily lives. This is the reason why I wanted to bring Illegal to the spotlight.” Iris reflected at the beginning of the performance.

The Chinese American community continues to remain an “outsider” to many. To prevent the history of prejudice and violence from repeating, we need to remember our history, to actively speak out against bias and brutality. Only by speaking out can the American society begin to pay attention to the needs and rights of the Asian American community

If you are interested in supporting the timely message behind this musical, please visit the production’s website. If you are interested in hosting this musical in your community, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Skyler through the information listed on the website.

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New! ILLEGAL will be featured at the OCA National Virtual Summit
Friday, 7/16, 8:15pm and Saturday, 7/17, 7:15pm!
(you can also watch the 15-min video throughout the summit starting Friday night)
Register for free to attend the entire summit 7/15-7/18

More exciting news & performances are coming down the pike, so stay tuned!

Help bring Illegal to the Stage: Donate on GoFundMe. Thank you!


By Ashley Fan
April 19, 2019

“Jook songs” — a wordplay on jook-sing, a Cantonese term for Chinese Americans — is the first song in the musical “Illegal” and a hybrid word that encapsulates what it means to be Chinese and American. Last summer, Skyler Chin ’19 was inspired to write a jook song of his own after reading poetry by Angel Island detainees. What was a single song has since bloomed into a fully fledged passion project, a 26-song musical about Chinese immigrants during the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The musical “Illegal,” is directed by Olivia Facini ’19 and features a talented seven-person cast: Skyler Chin ’19, Sophia Dai ’20, Jason Kim ’21, Kathy Min ’21, Ananya Parthasarathy ’20, Jisu Sheen ’20 and Daniel Flesch ’19. It is a musical blending rap and spoken word, an original combination of genres that parallels the theme of dual identity throughout the play. “Illegal,” inspired by the real experiences of Chin’s grandparents, follows the immigration journey of several young Chinese immigrants attempting to enter San Francisco through Angel Island at the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923. The script is a balance of lighted-hearted humor and powerful emotion, and is always heavy with meaning: “Illegal” asks the timely and timeless question, ‘What does it take to be(come) American?’”

Illuminating Ellis Island’s lesser known West Coast counterpart, Angel Island, Chin tells history with his own twist. By writing and performing “Illegal,” Chin seeks to “carve out a space for untold stories and diverse performers to shine.” He takes Chinese stories into his own hands, blurring the line between history and fiction. Though the characters are fictitious, they were inspired by Chin’s family as well as the countless immigrants who were detained, dehumanized and deported at Angel Island, but who were never properly recorded in history.

Laced within the story are shocking details of experiences at Angel Island. The musical portrays the lengths that immigrants went through to pass inspections that were rigged against them: detainees endured violating physicals, “paper sons” who borrowed identities memorized coaching books filled with details of other people’s lives and the few women who attempted to immigrate were all assumed to be prostitutes. Each disturbing “fun fact” is delivered through enthusiastic song; the musical entertains nonstop, all while serving biting criticism of the inhumane methods employed at Angel Island to push out Chinese immigrants.

In addition to strong messages imparted in rhymes, the implications of this musical’s very existence cannot be lost. The entire conception of “Illegal,” from its inspiration by Chin’s grandparents in 1923 to its performance at Yale in 2019, is a unique product of the Asian diaspora, and in particular, the Chinese diaspora. Central elements of the musical, including its setting on the West Coast and references to the invention of boba, nod to both historical and contemporary Asian diasporic culture. Chin tells a story of Chinese immigrants in English — with rap and spoken word, no less. This crossover of cultures would not have been possible without decades of cultural development within the Asian diaspora.

Chin’s blending of Chinese and American identities in “Illegal” is remarkably bold. Common principles in Chinese culture, from filial piety to honor, both clash and mesh with American values of freedom and allegiance. The most complex character in the play, the Chinese-American translator for Angel Island inspections, experiences an identity crisis when confronted with the moral dilemma of his cruel job, and his split loyalties to his country and his people.

A goosebump-inducing scene near the end of the musical alludes to the poetry that inspired Chin to write “Illegal” — a Cantonese voice-over melds with the voices of the cast as they recite translated verses that real immigrants had carved onto the walls of Angel Island detainment centers, the weight of each word they spoke striking along with the beat of the drums. “Now the history is mine to write,” says Chin’s character, a line that seems to refer to his own writing of history in the form of the musical. As the program notes, “Illegal” may be your introduction to this history, but do not let this be the end of your exploration.”

Catch “Illegal” this weekend on Friday, April 19 at 8 pm or Saturday, April 20 at 2 pm or 8 pm.

Ashley Fan |

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