CASA celebrates Chinese culture with 18th annual show

The Chinese American Student Association hosted its 18th annual Chinese Culture Show at Bovard Auditorium on Sunday. The event was centered on a play titled I Am So Proud of You, with dance and musical performances interweaved throughout the night.

I Am So Proud of You aimed to capture some of the struggles of a Chinese American teenager living in the United States. CASA’s culture show was directed by Eddy Xing, a sophomore majoring in business administration, and Jefferson Yan, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences. The play’s protagonist is a rebellious 16-year-old Chinese American girl named Emily Lu, who learned to embrace her culture after being sent to stay with her grandfather.

Xing and Yan first came up with the idea for the play after noticing the underrepresentation of Chinese culture on campus.

“We wanted to introduce more Chinese American culture onto USC’s campus because there is a lack of understanding or lack of awareness for Chinese American culture,” Yan said. “As second-generation Chinese Americans, we face different issues that others don’t really face.”

In the beginning of the play, Emily is frustrated at her parents for not expressing their pride in her. Unsure of what to do with their only daughter, Emily’s parents send her to stay with her elderly grandfather — whom she had never met before — over her spring break.

It is at her grandfather’s home that Emily learns about her family’s turbulent past and the sacrifices they made to give her a better life. At the end, Emily realizes that her parents have always been proud of her, and returns with a better understanding of her culture and family. Emily’s touching realization is reflective of the Asian American experience.

The play was not only captivating for the audience, but the production was also meaningful for the actors. Brendan Ma, a senior majoring in accounting, played the role of the grandfather in the play. Ma viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I’m definitely proud of all the hard work that everyone put into this play. There were few, if any, complaints even though we spent hours and hours doing this,” Ma said. “Everyone has midterms, everyone has other things going on, but we all blew it together and put on a good show.”

Along with the special production, the show also featured many talented Chinese American groups and performers on campus.

Leo Xia, a senior majoring in industrial systems and engineering, is an Asian American musician who recently released his first EP, Hyphenated, which focuses on his identity. To relate to the coming-of-age theme of the play, Xia performed “Flame,” a song he wrote about his experiences of feeling helplessly trapped between two cultures, but never fully belonging to one. His message is similar to the play’s theme regarding Emily’s identity. Xia also performed “Yellow,” a song he wrote that was featured in a Buzzfeed video about the Chinese Massacre of 1871.

Trogons A Capella, an East Asian a capella group on campus, also performed at the show. The Trogons specialize in creating mashups of  popular English and Mandarin songs, showcasing each member’s ability to switch between two languages with ease. At the show, the group mixed a Disney medley with a Mandarin song about perseverance.

Chaotic 3 Hip Hop, a dance team on campus, also performed during the event.  The hip-hop team is a source of artistic expression for the members of CASA. Dancing to popular American songs, Chaotic 3’s performance provided an interesting contrast to the rest of the night. With this performance, the culture show captured both the Chinese and American sides of a Chinese American experience, sending the message that both cultures can coexist through a shared medium.

CASA’s 18th annual culture not only reveal the various ways Chinese American students are involved in fine arts at USC, but also the wide spectrum of ways to express Chinese American culture. In the future, Xing and Yan hope that people gain a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese culture.

“People like to generalize Chinese culture into one big group, but then the reality is there’s a lot of facets in the culture, a lot of nuances, a lot of also unique situations that is in Chinese culture,” Yan said.