University of California, Berkeley

Most Outstanding Cultural Program Nomination: University of California, Berkeley

Describe the cultural program. Details MUST include: Date of event, number of participants, program purpose (i.e. goals and objectives), member involvement, use of resources (financial, etc.), marketing techniques and evaluations process.

On April 6th, 2019, the UC Berkeley Cal Vietnamese Student Association held our 40th Annual Culture Show, “Giua Hai Khung Troi: Colors of Us” at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus to an audience of over 1000 students (in and out of Berkeley), faculty, community members, and family members. The show was put on with the help of over 30 directors and coordinators and approximately 70 performers for a cast and crew of over 100.

This year’s show served various purposes: to explore and present a story about the intersectionality of the LGBTQIA+ and Vietnamese/Vietnamese American communities, and to create a space in which our cast and crew could grow and blossom. The show follows a central play with intermittent musical performances that bolster the story, performance coordinators spend fall semester planning their performances around the theme. Then they start recruiting for their respective teams in the spring. Teams practice 2-4 hours per week, and coordinators and directors meet with the production team an hour each week. On the day before the show, the cast and crew arrive at the theater to do a tech rehearsal, and on show day everyone starts practicing from 8 AM until the time of the show.

The budget for our show was a little over $35,000, which mostly comes from grants applied for by our treasurer and given by various departments on campus. Other sources are fundraisers hosted throughout the school year, concessions at Cal Football and Basketball games, and a plethora of individual donors and sponsors. The funds are spent mainly on rental costs for Zellerbach theater, which ranges from $30,000 to $32,000 each year. The rest of the budget goes into set construction, camera equipment, marketing materials (posters, flyers, programs), performance apparel, and costumes, amongst other things.

In order to market the show, our Public Relations team regularly updated Instagram and Facebook with “sneak peeks” of photos from practices, along with uploading crew member spotlight videos to YouTube. Publicists designed the flyers and posters that we would eventually display in public areas of campus, as well as in other Bay Area communities, especially focusing on schools nearby. The week before the show, performers tabled through rain in the main school plaza and encouraged interested students and other onlookers to buy tickets to see our show.

As for an evaluations process, the production team gave out an anonymous feedback form to the entire cast and crew to help us improve the show and any process leading up to it. After the show, the crew met up at a final meeting and banquet in order to discuss positives, negatives, and possible changes for the next year. Notes from this discussion were handed to next year’s production team, so we can continue to grow.

How did this cultural program serve the campus and/or community? What were the cultural program’s goals and how did it meet them?

Our goal as a cast and crew this year was to use the audience that Culture Show gathers every year to send out a powerful message to the Vietnamese and Vietnamese American communities and set a strong precedent of sending a new message in the years to come. Previously, our show had highlighted things like perceived gender roles in Vietnam and how trauma could affect your family years into the future. As the Culture Chairs this year, we felt that the stories relating to the LGBTQIA+ communities had been hushed at dinner tables for too long, and wanted to introduce those stories to our audience members. Our show highlighted the stories of a young gay man, Thành, and a young bisexual woman, Hana. Thành’s story follows his exploration of his coming out to his family–and the realization that he was not the only one affected by the process. Hana’s story follows her struggle between living up to her mother’s expectations of a perfect daughter and truly embracing her own wants and needs. The show highlighted the realities of families all around the country and made audience members aware of what stories might be happening not just within their own families, but for others as well.

As a community, Culture Show also aims to provide a safe and inclusive space for UC Berkeley students to participate in any aspect of theater and music production, and join a beginner-friendly performance space. Culture Show invites people of all levels of experience and accommodates any and all that are interested in participating. By successfully hosting the show and serving an audience of over 1000, we were able to showcase and spread our message whilst allowing our cast and crew to grow and share their skills and talents.

How did the organization overcome any challenges that arose while planning and implementing the cultural program?

Culture Show’s biggest challenge was the theme. Our audience consists of many different people, but a big part of it is family members of our participants. When we as a production team first brought up the theme of LGBTQIA+ and Vietnamese/Vietnamese American intersectionality, we were received with less than ecstatic reactions. Something like this had never been done before for Culture Show, and neither of us had enough personal experience to speak for the story written by our scriptwriters. It took the combined effort of our entire cast and crew to bring out all their family members and convince our audience members that we had an important story to tell with the best and most honest intentions.