Culture show promotes Vietnamese American experience, embracing heritage

A 'Missed Connections' illustration by Tristan Ray.

Emily Richardson, Staff Writer

Vietnamese Student Association’s annual culture show will explore themes of “love, healing and embracing your heritage, and self discovery,” according to a post on the group’s Instagram.

“Missed Connections” is VSA at VCU’s 43rd annual cultural show, taking place on Saturday, April 8 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, according to its Instagram. The show is a stage play interspersed with dance and fashion performances sharing aspects of Vietnamese culture.

A lot of work goes into making sure the culture show is the biggest night of the year for the organization, according to Chris Hoang, one of three culture chairs of VSA.

“Our club really focuses on this big night because it’s one of our biggest passion projects,” Hoang said. “It’s gonna be an amazing night, and it’s gonna be the culmination of a lot of what we can do.” 

Preparations for the event began in the summer, according to Hoang.

“We were emailing venues, we were discussing what we wanted in our script and creating a team of script writers,” Hoang said. “It was a very long process. It takes about the whole year to get the show up and running, but we take pride in our work and we love getting [general body members] involved.”

VSA at VCU bases their yearly culture show on the reality of the Asian American experience, Hoang said. This year, the show is about a spoiled American girl who, with her single father, travels to Vietnam to “find their culture” and “what really ties them together,” he said.

Freshman Katherine Nguyen, a musical theater major, plays the lead role of Phoebe, also known by a Vietnamese name, Phuong. Nguyen is glad to be playing a relatable character that can resonate with people, she said.

“The main character is very out of touch with her culture, very Americanized, and that’s something I can definitely relate to — I like to think that I’m not a spoiled brat, though,” Nguyen said.

For Nguyen, her involvement with the show reminds her of why she appreciates VSA as a community, she said.

“There are a lot of things in my culture that I’m not normally able to be around as a VCU student, in everyday life,” Nguyen said. “Being in VSA reminds me of my culture and allows me to surround myself with other people who understand what I’m going through.”

The show is a skit every year with other types of performances integrated into the show, according to Reagan Bui, another culture chair of VSA.

“This year, we’re gonna have a traditional fashion show and the way we integrated that into our script is that we mentioned how she’s going to buy traditional garments,” Bui said.

Dance performances in the show will include both modern and traditional styles, according to Bui.

“For traditional dance performances, we usually wear traditional garments and they’ll use props like fans, ribbons and hats,” Bui said. “For modern dances, it’s anything the choreographer wants to do and how it would match with the scene they’re performing in.”

The show is a “very empowering opportunity,” according to senior Tyler Samay, VSA’s external vice president and acting director of the culture show. 

Samay found a strong sense of community in the organization when he joined in his sophomore year, and the culture show is representative of that, he said.

“I did not grow up in an area with a lot of Southeast Asians,” Samay, who is half Vietnamese and half Cambodian, said. “Being part of this culture show gives me a lot of pride in what I’m doing as an Asian American — in what I represent as a person and what my culture represents for everybody who wants to come watch the show.”

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is located at 2880 Mountain Road. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the show starts at 2 p.m. Admission to the show is free.

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