USC VSA’s 39th Annual Vietnamese Culture Night: In the Middle, Giữa Đàng
I was asked to take on the position of VCN Director again even though we were more than halfway through the production season. Two months before the show, I decided to start over from scratch. It was a risky decision that put me under a lot of pressure and increased the workload tremendously, but was ultimately the right choice for the club. In the end, our hard work and passion for the new show paid off.
On March 4th, VSA presented the 39th Annual Vietnamese Culture Night: In the Middle, Giữa Đàng. This show, my brainchild, comprised of a play, songs, and dances that highlighted and explored the themes of identity and the struggle to find a balance between one’s Vietnamese and American cultures. Though the show centered specifically on a Vietnamese American story, the struggles and experiences can be relevant to anyone with more than one culture.
It was a rom-com so people laughed. A lot. It was the greatest feeling ever. My cast and crew had tons of fun on stage, were energized by the crowd, and gave the best performance they’ve ever given. It was an amazing experience, and I’m kind of sad to have it over even though I’m relieved to be done with the work. VCN is always a struggle due to the sheer amount of effort it requires to create, produce, and direct a 2.5 hour show with multiple acts and types of performances, but the work is always worth it. So worth it. Seeing my VCN members so proud of their performances was the best feeling I could ever have. I was proud to have my name on the program and to put on a show that made people feel good. Never again will I take on this position but I don’t regret doing it one bit.
And what does being “in the middle” mean to me?
It’s not feeling Vietnamese enough, not American enough. Not knowing if I’m really Vietnamese or really American. Feeling like I’m a perpetual foreigner in my home country because of the way I look and where my parents were born. Feeling like I’m too white washed to be a good Vietnamese daughter. Just feeling stuck…in the middle.
Am I Vietnamese? Am I American?
I don’t know!
Even after writing this play and directing an entire show about cultural identity and this struggle to find a balance, I still don’t know. I can’t define who I am. It’s frustrating. I know I’m Vietnamese American; that’s something I can’t change or really choose. I was born this way and I’ll always be this way. People will always see me as Asian, Vietnamese if they’re astute, but because I was born and grew up in America, I’ll always be American too. But what does being Vietnamese American even mean?
That’s for us to decide. Through this show, I’ve come to understand the identity of Vietnamese American as a label you’re given but an identity you can decide for yourself. No one can tell you you’re not enough of this or that because our country’s culture regarding ethnic minorities is just a big jumbled mess. When there are so many different types of people in one place, it’s impossible to be “pure.” We’re all mixtures. You choose which to prioritize.
I’m still figuring out what/who I want to be. I definitely want to learn more about my heritage and maintain my Vietnamese identity, but that doesn’t mean I won’t embrace my American culture too (despite America being a hellhole right now). Ultimately, I think it’s about being comfortable with how nebulous identity is. That’s tough for me because I like concrete answers and definitions, but I’m trying more each day to accept the fluidity of human nature.
Be fluid everyone, but take on the form of your container~~
Idk what that means but it sounds philosophical…but also really freaking stupid…lol