CASA performance showcases students’ talents

This year’s Chinese American Student Association Culture Show directors, Patrick Lefaver, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, and Nelson Li, a junior majoring in business administration, along with Technical Director Jennifer Huang, an undeclared sophomore, put their hearts and souls into “Legacy.”

Show time · “Legacy” was directed by USC students Patrick Lefaver, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering and Nelson Li, a junior majoring in business administration. The show also included student actors. - Photo courtesy of Jerry Lin

CASA put on this intricate, well-executed Annual Culture Show on Sunday in the Bovard auditorium. The show was a completely student-run production that merged Chinese culture with the performing arts.

For nine months, the students wrote scripts, auditioned potential cast members and watched their vision come alive in what Li called their “brainchild.”

“When Patrick and I first met together to discuss the show, we agreed that we wanted to reach for the skies,” Li said. “We wanted to produce an extraordinary stage production and would accept nothing less.”

And the show itself turned out to be a well-executed and intricate performance, despite a few flaws.

The show begins with a filmed segment that lasts a few minutes. Here, the audience is introduced to the protagonist, a young Asian-American man from Los Angeles named Jason Wu (played by Andy Matsuzaki, a senior majoring in economics). Wu finds himself rejecting his Chinese culture and  trying to get away from a group of crime-ridden characters.

Once the film is over, Jason  finds himself in ancient China. As he tries to find a way back home, he falls in love with Princess Jia Rong (Beverly Chiang, a sophomore majoring in business administration) who is about to unwillingly marry the power-hungry, cruel and corrupt General Chen Hsu (undeclared freshman Kevin Ho) to honor her duty to the kingdom.

Scheming to murder both Prince Zhi Hao (Jonathan Chen, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering) and the Emperor in hopes of overthrowing the dynasty, Ho’s portrayal of General Chen Hsu brings tension and violent tendencies to the stage. His forceful physical contact was so shockingly realistic that the entire crowd seemed to gasp. Jia Rong’s parents (Martin Chen, a freshman majoring in business administration and Aydee Tie, a sophomore majoring in psychology) perfectly portray the typical persona of controlling parents.

Matsuzaki and Chiang both played their characters in a convincing way that created a genuine chemistry. Each character seemed to grow and flourish, especially when Jason’s courage became more alive when he revealed the truth about General Chen Hsu.

The plot is somewhat generic, there are a few twists that capture the audience’s attention. The more light-hearted aspects of the show, including a cross-dressing concubine, “that’s what she said” jokes and more subtle sexual innuendoes, add a tonal contrast to the dramatic and action-packed scenes.

June Wang, a junior majoring in neuroscience and music, who portrayed Wei Ming, did an excellent job speaking in Buddhist-inspired sayings as Jason’s humorous yet wise ancestor.

Wei Ming and her food-loving house workers A-Niu and A Bei (the comedic duo Daniel Tang, a class of 2009 alumnus and Irene Ng, a freshman majoring in accounting), kept the production light and fun.

The show incorporated student clubs with special performances from Traditional Chinese Dance and Wushu Nation that were incorporated perfectly in a majestic engagement ceremony for the Princess and the General.

The all-female Chinese Traditional Dance group  danced very delicately with varying footwork and simple hand movements. Wushu Nation brought intensity as each member moved around the stage with flips and hard-hitting martial arts moves.

The next two appearances, however, felt out of place. After the climax of the play and the 15-minute intermission, rising Youtube star Joseph Vincent performed three songs before the story could continue.

When Jason wakes up from his dream at the end of the performance, the dance crew Chaotic 3 comes out of nowhere and takes over the stage.

They were pumped with energy and danced an exciting routine, in the end compensating for the awkward placement and timing of their performance.

Throughout the play, some of the actors experienced some technical difficulties with their microphone headsets, such as during a fight scene between Jason and the General.

But they powered through the problems like professionals. The actors in “Legacy” dedicated themselves to their roles without any sense of fabricated emotion or lack of commitment.

With simple yet authentic furniture, colorful traditional Chinese clothing, outdoor sound effects and quick scenery changes thanks to a hard-working backstage crew, “Legacy” turned out to be more than just an average student-run production.

After hours of rehearsals, stress and sleepless nights, the directors, cast and crew pulled off a production that was thoroughly entertaining.

“They say nothing good happens after 2 a.m.,” Lefaver said. “We beg to differ.”