The Vietnamese Student Association, or VSA, is hosting its 44th annual culture show April 15 at the Toni Rembe Theater at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where they will perform traditional Vietnamese dances, showcase musical performances and celebrate Vietnamese culture.
VSA’s culture shows are also using its performances to address heavier issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, the BLM movement and mental health. Their goal with this production is to lead cultural change within the Bay Area.
“VSA’s Culture Show is a national award winning student-run production that includes a 5 act play, traditional Vietnamese and modern dances, and musical performances,” said VSA president Coby Nguyen in an email. “Not only does it create a space for Berkeley students to explore the arts on such a career driven campus, it also serves to showcase and appreciate Vietnamese culture and heritage.”
Minh Anh Van, a fifth-year campus student and director of this year’s culture show added the culture show is meant to be an inclusive place for people of Vietnamese heritage and those who do not identify as Vietnamese or Vietnamese American.
Anh Van noted there were still various challenges that they ran into while working on the production.
“There is a diverse set of people coming from various backgrounds and understandings about the Vietnamese, Vietnamese American, and other Vietnamese diasporic cultures,” Anh Van said in an email. “This sometimes results in different understandings and opinions about the artistic and cultural representation that we want to bring to the audience.”
Another challenge that they faced was not being able to perform in the Zellerbach Hall, the space that they have been using for their culture shows for decades.
Nhi Tran, VSA co-chair of culture, said the organization hopes to use the Zellerbach building for future VSA culture shows, but if prices continue to “hike up,” they will have to take their culture shows elsewhere.
“I would hate to see something that has brought so much joy to me and countless other Berkeley students be pushed off of campus in favor of professional shows from outside of campus—shows that Berkeley students for the most part don’t even attend,” Nguyen said in an email.
Tran added the shows can be such a time commitment. However, she said that seeing the “show come together” reminds her of her love of producing.
Nguyen, on the other hand, said that it was such a “beautiful experience” for not just him, but for the rest of the VSA team.
“Seeing the acting, the dances, the vocals all come to life onstage after an entire year of planning was so fulfilling and meaningful, to not only me, but also the 100+ other members of my team,” Nguyen said in an email.