DAO play rebuffs stereotypes

by Vivian Chung | 2/23/04 6:00am

"Who knows, someone might actually learn something," said Jon Wang, a lead character in the final moments of "Asian-Americana" Saturday night. The play, put on by the Dartmouth Asian Organization, drew an audience of over 300 in total over the two showings.

"Asian-Americana" did not shove answers or doctrines in the audience's face, but raised questions instead. It was not your typical cultural night where people dress up in ethnic costumes prancing around. As one character put it, "we need to address issues that confront us, our Asian-American generation."

The play featured many different characters from the shy quiet Chinese guy, to the ultra-cool Japanese hunk, to the angry-at-his-parents Indian dude.

With the wide range of personalities on stage, so, too, came a wide range of opinions.

A lead character, Wang lands himself the job of organizing the DAO cultural night. He questions the usual and expected cultural event with the regular "dancing and stuff." Interestingly though, the "dancing and stuff" is worked into the script so that while the characters discuss the play, the audience is shown many different ethnic dances.

The play raised many questions about racial stereotypes. It did show the drunk white frat boy and the docile pathetic Chinese guy.

On the other hand, it counter-acted these stereotypes by having other characters like an angry screaming Chinese guy, a confident six-packed Japanese guy and a friendly, harmless white guy in the caf. By putting twists on anticpated racial character types, the audience was thrown a curveball which kept them, and the play, honest.

The play was so honest, in fact, that there were several moments of recognition for those in attendance. While these moments were thought provoking, they were also extremely humorous. Many times the actors on stage had to wait for the audience to stop laughing before continuing on with their lines.

The play was written by Tim Sun '06, thus the script was based on Dartmouth and included many references to the college. Scenes took place in familiar spots like Food Court and the fraternities.

"Asian-Americana" also tackled the issue of the current generation and their "embarrassing" parents. Arnab Datta, another lead character, often fought with his parents, over things like the white girl on the Maxim poster in his dorm and a little Hindu statue.

Dave Lee, the shy Korean guy discussed with his Asian mentees how their parents expected them to be the usual computer science, engineering, economics or biochem majors.

Taica Hsu '06, who played the angry Wang in the play, said that it was very "interesting to adopt a different mentality" and to sustain that throughout. While he thought that there were many funny scenes and comments, he also noticed that there were many "awkward moments" in the play.

"Asian-Americana" was a huge success; not only did the audience go away with something to think about, they also laughed a lot and had a good time.