A celebration of Vietnamese heritage

Members of the Langara Vietnamese Student Society having fun at Richmond Night Market. | Photo by Hoang Nguyen

In celebration of Vietnam’s culture and heritage, the Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society (SEACHS) will be holding Mai Dao: A Glimpse into Vietnamese Culture at the Norman Rothstein Theater on Oct. 27.

Reminiscing on his time in Vietnam, Mai Dao theatre director Dennis Gupta says he is fond of Vietnamese water puppet show, which is what first introduced him to Vietnamese culture.

“I was stunned with the playfulness of the puppets floating, diving and playing with the pool of water,” Gupta says. “It was fantastic!”

It was when Gupta helped with organizing Mai Dao that he says he truly immersed himself in the beauty of Vietnamese culture.

Mai Dao sees the beauty of sharing one’s culture, language and history in a theatrical space, and the community that forms this event brings sincerity and love,” he says.

Gupta hopes his theatrical talents will engage the audience at the event.

“There is always greatness in bringing your visions of hope and connectedness through performative expressions,” he says. “It makes it present, alive and heartfelt.”

More than pho

Thai Hoa Le, SEACHS executive director and Mai Dao organizer, seeks to make Mai Dao welcoming to the public, especially second generation Vietnamese-Canadians who are still figuring out their identities.

“It is an opportunity for Vancouver residents to experience more than just pho or banh mi in Vietnamese culture,” he says. “The show is born out of the collaboration that happens within the community.”

Le spent a significant portion of his childhood in Montreal, where he learned about his heritage and language from his parents. Le then pursued his acting career in acting school abroad and came back to Canada later on.

“Finally at the age of 31, settling in Vancouver, I had more time to improve my Vietnamese and connect with my peers,” says Le.

Besides his acting credited in the blockbuster movie X-Men: Days of the Future Past, Le also contributed to a notable Vietnamese film during his time in Vietnam: The Lady Assassin.

Teaching for community

For Pearl Nguyen, a teacher at Tran HuuTrang Theatre in Ho Chi Minh city, her immediate connections with her heritage guided her to the land of Vietnamese theatre, as she has always been an art lover at heart. Nguyen takes pride in her role as a teacher as well as in her research on problems facing contemporary Vietnamese Theatre, which is recognized by the University of Massachusetts Boston in Boston, United States.

“After graduating university and getting my art degree in theatre direction, I have taken on the path of teaching the younger generations,” she says. “I am proud to be a teacher teaching about acting methods and the history of the theatres.”

Participating in the Vietnamese community in Vancouver, she notices that the community is quite different from what she experienced in other Canadian cities.

“I have been to Toronto and Montreal multiple times, and I find that the Vietnamese community in Vancouver has a different presence,” she says. “The community has a hard time finding a common voice here.”

Shedding a more positive light on this subject, Hoang Nguyen, a student at Langara College who moved to Vancouver 4 years ago, says that the Vietnamese students may be timid at first. However, after they have gotten to know each other better, their bonds strengthen greatly.

“As a Vietnamese international student, I think there is a really strong connection between Vietnamese students in general. However, I think growing up in the South East Asian culture, people are shy to start conversations with others,” he says. “But once we become friends, we have a strong sense of community.”

Nguyen also says that Vancouver is a vibrant city full of diversity, where he can embrace his culture.

“Vancouver is a very multi-racial city, where everyone is treated fairly without discrimination or racism,” he says. “I have always been proud of my Vietnamese heritage.”

For more details and tickets, visit www.explorasian.org.