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Culture Night Depicts Vietnam War
As a part of their cultural show, students from the Vietnamese Student Union performed a play called Adrift... which included a martial arts show and dancing. (Photo by Danielle Perrot for The Daily Bruin)

Culture Night Depicts Vietnam War

The three-hour-long event depicting a family torn apart by political ideology in the midst of the Vietnamese war was meant to stir up conversation.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Tulika Bose, Daily Bruin contributor

The Vietnamese war was the controversial subject of Monday’s Vietnamese Culture Night held in Royce Hall.

But Daniel Pham, president of the Vietnamese Student Union said the three-hour-long event depicting a family torn apart by political ideology in the midst of the Vietnamese war was meant to stir up conversation within the Vietnamese community.

“We don’t talk about the war as much as we should. We want to open up a dialogue within the Vietnamese community,” Pham said.

Pham also cited a lack of human rights within Vietnam as another reason why this year’s play in particular was timely.

“I’m really passionate about freedom of speech, ... and right now that’s not going on in Vietnam.”

Pham said it was the responsibility of Vietnamese Americans to help their respective communities as well as maintain their roots and their heritage.

“We can go back to our communities and help out with them. ... We have the responsibility of culture,” Pham said.

Monday’s event, titled “Adrift...” consisted of a three-hour-long play, authored by students, complete with interspersed video clips showcasing war footage, modern and traditional dancers, and rousing songs to celebrate Vietnamese heritage, as well as the Lion dancers from Gardena.

The play, which takes place from 1954 to 1975, depicts the fall of Vietnam through the eyes of twins – a boy named Hieu and a girl named Thao, which mean “loyalty to your family” when put together.

Yvonne Hoang, one of the writers of the play, said the plot depicts the destruction of a family through a brother and a sister who enlist on opposite sides of the war. This resolves with the point that no matter what, family is more important.

Pham said preparations for the event went back to mid-July.

“We started the storyboard during the summer. ... Auditions for the play were held within the first and second week of fall. Every week, I’ve stayed up (until) 10 focusing on the show.”

Hoang said the process of writing the story was labor-intensive because of the controversial element and need for accuracy.

“It took a fair two or three hours a scene. ... We were truly attempting to recreate what (the Vietnamese) were going through.”

Hoang said the political nature of the story made it difficult to be completely accurate, due to the danger of appearing one-sided.

“If we cut off too many things, it might be too political on one side. We didn’t want to be thought of as a bunch of college students who didn’t know anything. ... We were expecting it to be completely accurate,” Hoang said.

Hoang also mentioned the play was meant to be a tribute for those Vietnamese Americans who had come to America post-1975.

“We wanted it to hit home because there are so many families who could relate.

“It was intended for the parents of the Vietnamese Student Union members,” Hoang said.

Karen Tran, executive producer of the play, said the message that the event was trying to send was that there was no antagonist when it came to the war.

“For us to take the move to present it in a neutral light will be a little controversial. There’s no antagonist, it’s more about how everyone had become disillusioned by the end of the war,” she said.

Tran added that trying to understand the aftermath of the Vietnam war was a goal of the event.

“We hear stories, but we often don’t understand,” she said.

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