Chris Tsao on VSA's 19th Annual Vietnamese Culture Night

Name: Chris Tsao

Year: 3rd 

Major: English

Hometown: Irvine, CA

Celebrity crush: IU

Favorite spot to eat in IV: Blaze Pizza

Hobbies: violin, writing, fanboying over K-pop, admiring my vast collection of Japanese pens and pencils

What is VCN? 

VCN stands for Vietnamese Culture Night, and it’s an annual show that Vietnamese Student Association holds in efforts to celebrate and showcase Vietnamese culture. It features a two-act play as well as a multitude of other performances, such as dance, choir, and spoken word poetry, and demonstrates the talent and hard work of our club’s members both on stage and behind the scenes.

What made you want to be this year's VCN director?

Back in high school, I was in the school’s musical pit orchestra for three years, and I loved every minute of it. There was so much comradery among everyone involved in the musical, especially because so many people were putting in their all for one performance. As an English major I’ve already had my sights on story writing, and being the director of VCN lets me combine both my creative endeavors and my love for performance art. I really wanted to not only bring a relatable story to the audience, but also introduce the members who participated to the same beautiful world of performance art that I was able to experience in high school.

What is this year's VCN about? 

This year’s VCN follows the life of Mia Hoang, an aspiring writer who grows up deeply attached to her Vietnamese culture but, after increasing pressure from her non-Vietnamese peers, Mia eventually completely distances herself from her culture. The rest of the story revolves around her learning what it means to be Vietnamese American, and the importance of keeping her heritage alive.

What inspired you to write this story?

I could go on forever about this! Growing up in a community that was very densely populated by Asian Americans, I quickly observed that often times our generation was far less in touch with our Asian heritages compared to our parents or other family members—which is completely natural, considering we grew up in America, but I strongly believe that it’s important for us to stay in touch with that side of our identity, before it completely fades away. This concept of reconnecting with culture is something that is extremely important to me; anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely passionate about my Taiwanese heritage, but despite my efforts to stay connected, I’ve begun to realize that my language skills and understanding of Taiwanese culture aren’t nearly what I want them to be. I have trouble communicating with family sometimes, making conversation, etc.  When we live thousands of miles away from the origins of our Asian heritage, we have to be extremely proactive about staying connected, so this VCN is about giving people reason to do that. Okay, before I actually go on forever, long story short, this year’s story has deep personal importance to me.

How do you think peple can relate to this year's VCN even if they are not Vietnamese?

This year’s VCN definitely was designed to be relatable to all Asian Americans, especially since I am presenting it as a non-Vietnamese American. Regardless of your ethnic background, this year’s VCN touches on the concept of identity, and the struggles of being who you are despite pressures to be otherwise. 

What has been the most difficult part of directing a show? The most rewarding?

The most difficult part has definitely been planning the show at a macro level. Having a vision and maintaining it productively for a whole year was really difficult considering this is the first large-scale project that I undertook as a sole leader. As the weeks draw nearer, it’s only gotten harder and harder—lots of meticulous planning, adapting to situations, and an overall building amount of stress. But I’m taking care of myself!  I have a great support system that keeps me in check and I’m super thankful for that.

As for the most rewarding, I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s been rewarding every step of the way. I’ve had an amazing time working with my actors and watching the show gradually unfold and come together. Every Super Saturday (a day dedicated solely to practices) fills me with that kind of adrenaline you get when you’re busy, but insanely productive. I can’t imagine the amount of emotions that I’ll be going through on the actual day of the show, but I’m sure that on that day, everything will culminate into one of my most memorable experiences ever.

Why should people come out to VCN?

I really believe that stories should always come with a lesson to its audience, and because of that I really wanted this year’s VCN to teach us all something about what it means to be an Asian American. But beyond the story itself, this year over a hundred people put in a tremendous amount of hard work in their crafts, and we made sure that our final product is something worth watching. Because of that, regardless of if you learn from the story, the show itself will at its core be entertaining for everyone! 

When/where is VCN? And how much is it?

May 20 at Cambell Hall. Doors open at 4:30, show starts at 5. This year's show is completely FREE!

*Images above are from 2016 VCN