Journal # 5: Đồng thanh tương ứng, đồng khí tương cầu – Birds of a Feather Flock Together

As a Culture Coordinator and as a VCN director, I’ve done a lot of talking about “starting the discussion”. I took it upon myself to bring this dialogue to people outside of the UCLA community prior to the day of the show. I had the extreme fortune to talk to a couple of older Vietnamese-Americans recently about mental health, the state of the Vietnamese community, and what they thought about how we can change this discussion for the better. By talking to them, and their experiences with mental health, I hoped to gain more insight into the deeply-rooted issues surrounding this taboo topic in our community. I learned a lot– about myself as a person struggling with these afflictions, about the community I’m trying to help, and about the people sitting in front of me. It’s very true that everyone has their own story and struggle; it’s just very harrowing to hear from them just how gruesome their stories could be. I think a lot of Vietnamese parents look at their kids and say, “you’re just a kid; you don’t know anything. Just suck it up and deal with it.” They don’t validate what the kids are going through, and the kids don’t validate their parents partly because the parents never shared their story. On one side, you have the parents. “It’s so hard to come to a new country,” my friend said. He explained to me that, in very traditional families, you lived and died on the same plot of land your ancestors did. You didn’t just pick up and leave. But when 1975 came around, there was no...

Journal #4: Cẩn Thận – Careful

And with that, auditions are over! I’m honestly really bad at taking pictures of things while they’re happening, so unlike Calvin’s very nicely-decorated posts with lots of pictures, mine have none. You’ll all have to deal. Anyway, Friday, with drama’s final callbacks, concluded the end of a very long month of auditions. With Awechords’, Modern’s, Traditional’s, and Drama’s auditions finally over, we can say that we have 99% of our cast on board! (The only exception being Stage Crew, which takes ongoing applicants.) We had a lot of very talented auditions for Drama, but unfortunately could only accept a handful. The small nature of my cast prevents me from adding more people. This morning, I wrote an e-mail to the drama cast. I wanted to share with them a few things, and I will paraphrase a few of those few things here. While this e-mail was sent to the drama cast, I have a feeling that I will send these messages out to all-cast soon as well, after we have our rosters filled out. firstly, you are a person, then a student, then a cast member With my cast members, due to the touchy nature of this topic, I refuse to make VCN the cause of anyone’s mental breakdown. I do not want anyone to feel overwhelmed, lost, or swept away by the amount of work they need to complete. If you need a break, you need a break– don’t be afraid to ask for it. My producer, Amy, says I need to take my own advice. the content of this script is very real to me While this...

Journal #3: Cân lời nói trước khi nói – Think Before You Speak

The greatest, yet most challenging, thing about our culture night is its nature. UCLA’s Vietnamese Culture Night has been known to tackle difficult topics head-on, such as mail-order brides, LGBT issues, mental health, gambling, interracial marriage, and so on. These topics– which can easily be misconstrued or misrepresented– require lots of careful planning, and the exact word for the occasion, lest the theme of the show be misunderstood. The same goes for this year. The sensitive topic that I am choosing to cover this year is very near and dear to me– so dear, in fact, that the very importance I place on this subject has intimidated me into discarding a lot of my ideas. Writing about this topic has been a constant process of writing, editing, and discarding over and over and over again. It’s difficult for me to stick with one idea because I am constantly trying to make sure that I tackle this subject in just the right way. Otherwise, I run the risk of leading the audience to poor conclusions or presenting bad solutions to these issues– neither of which I want to do. Getting my staff settled in has been a little problematic as well. Above all, my philosophy for my staff is that you should take care of yourself as a person first, then yourself as a student, and then yourself as a student leader. However, this did result in a few logistical problems. Thanks to the support of VCN alumni and previous directors, I was able to work out a lot of the issues. It’s so great to know that there is a support network...

Journal #2: Đầu xuôi đuôi lọt – A Good Beginning is Half the Battle

Whoever first said that getting started is the hardest part seriously was not kidding. Don’t get me wrong– I knew what I was in for when I applied to be culture coordinator. I knew how much work was involved and I was ready to take on the responsibility. What I wasn’t ready for was how daunting it would be to look at this production, which is not unlike a $30,000 knot of yarn, and try to figure out where I should begin to detangle this darn thing. At first it seems like a no-brainer– obviously, you have to get the script out of the way. But before the deadline for the script is the deadline for hiring staff, for finding producers, for the first couple of funding applications; it’s this whole mess of things that seem to add up into one big ball of stress. Thankfully, with my producers on board, it’s a little easier to delegate tasks and to get the ball rolling. Picking my producers was difficult as I was torn between a few qualified people, but in the end I made my decision and I’m pretty happy with it. We’ve been working on our mission statement and on defining our goals for VCN, and it’s definitely been helpful for brainstorming as well. Speaking of which, that’s an entirely different monster. I realized a few weeks ago what I’m about to do– I’m about to sit down and write a two-hour play. That’s crazy. It just blows my mind. I’ve written short story upon short story in the past, but never any sort of screenplay. It’s intimidating, and...
Journal #1: Xin chào các bạn! (Part 2)

Journal #1: Xin chào các bạn! (Part 2)

Hello! My name is Sarah Ho, and it’s very wonderful to meet you. I am the 2015-2016 Culture Coordinator for UCLA’s Vietnamese Student Union, and also the Executive Director for the 36th Annual Vietnamese Culture Night at UCLA. As the new director, I would like to restart the Director’s journal. I thought it was a great way to get insight into the makings of a Vietnamese Culture Night and a great way to hype myself for show day. And, following in Calvin’s footsteps, I’d like to share my motivations for directing VCN. When I talk to people about VCN, I always say it’s the best thing I’ve done in college thus far. Nothing even comes close to my experience with VCN. Through VCN I have laughed, I have cried, I have stressed, I have raged, I have learned, and most importantly, I have explored myself as not just an individual with broadening capabilities but a Vietnamese-American with a growing pride for her culture. My first experience with a VCN was VSAUCI’s 2012 production, which I believe was titled “Two Hearts”. My sister was dancing in their modern dance team, Level V Origins, and goaded my family into attending. After a lot of grumbling, I relented. To be honest, I don’t really know what I expected. I think I expected a crummy production filled with all of the stereotypical Vietnamese things: preachings about the language, the preservation of culture, and so on. I expected it to feel old, boring, and irrelevant to my understanding of my Vietnamese culture. What I experienced was nothing like what I expected. What I saw...
Journal #3: It’s All in the Process

Journal #3: It’s All in the Process

Aside from the usual stresses of culture night planning (like perpetually thinking about money and how to get money and subsequently dreaming of having no money…) the journey thus far has been pretty transformative and quite rewarding. The end result on the night of January 19, 2015 will be wonderful, no doubt. But it’s really all in the process. For me at least, that means learning many things as I go and continually improving my understanding of VCN. Below I’ve detailed some of these lessons, big and small.   1. The “V” in “VCN” isn’t just a letter When culture night season gets rolling, it can get overwhelming to learn about all the different CNs. And really, the only thing distinguishing one CN from the next (at least on the surface) is a simple letter or two. But that small difference is the difference that makes Vietnamese Culture Night distinctly Vietnamese in history and context, as is Thai Culture Night or Samahang Pilipino Cultural Night or Chinese American Culture Night, for example. These are very specific identities tied to very specific shows. (And I highly encourage you to go watch all the culture nights on campus to get the best overall culture night experience possible!)   2. Advocacy for the show can happen at anytime, to anyone, anywhere At times I feel like a walking, talking personification of VCN. I really love talking about it. But yet I’m still intimidated now when I’m asked, “what is the show about?” To me, it might as well be phrased as “give me your most polished and passionate explanation of what this year’s...