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A young woman and the railroad

“Into the fabric of every epic are woven strands of countless unrecorded lives,” writes Rick Foster, the playwright and director of “Gunpowder Man,” a short but dramatic play that is set in the old West around the building of the Central Pacific Railroad that stretched from the Sacramento Valley to Promontory, Utah.

While the project did good things for the country, it was often most challenging for the people who supplied the labor: The thousands of Chinese workers who were essential to this phase of industrialization.

“We can read of the leaders, the victors and the vanquished,” continues Foster, “but what of the nameless men and women who were uprooted or killed, whose values were challenged, who succeeded or failed to maintain their humanity amid the sea of struggle and change? To enter their lives at all we must use our imagination.”



These words begin the story about Tiger Lily, who flees her homeland in China in the midst of turmoil in the 1860s – the Taiping Rebellion where 20 million lives were lost – to come to California. There, disguised as a teenage boy, she plants explosives in the high Sierras to blast a path for the railroad.

“Gunpowder Man” is a tale of hope and betrayal on two continents, a tale of the struggle to survival in America. It is about choosing revenge or forgiveness.




The playwright, who has written nine California history plays, will be present to take questions after the two performances, one at 2 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m., on Sunday at Odd Fellows Hall, 212 Spring St., Nevada City. The one-hour play, which is sponsored by Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS), is suitable for the whole family.

Purchase tickets for $10 and $5 (12 years and under) in Grass Valley at The Book Seller and BriarPatch; in Nevada City at Words on Paper, Gold Mountain and NC Postal Company; also at http://www.brownpapertickets.com. For more details, contact: info@catsweb.org, (530) 265-2990 or http://www.catsweb.org.


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