Children of the Dragon

An original community theatre production supported by: CCD Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, Vietnamese Community in Australia – Victoria Chapter, Australian Vietnamese Youth Media, Bigwest Festival and the City of Maribyrnong.  This production was performed at the Melbourne Trades Hall, in Australia between November 16th and November 26, 2006.

Performers

Ai Diem Le, Brian Tuan Nguyen, Catherine Ngo, Charlie Tran, Dao Tran, David Vo, Eric Phan, Helen Huynh, Jennifer To, Kevin Le, Midori Jane Takahashi, Michael Nguyen, Nam Bui, Quoc Do, Son Vu, Steven Pham, Steven Puopolo, Thao Truong, Toan Phuong, Tuan Mai, Vinh Nguyen

Dancers

Ashlee Hughes, Natalie Soto, Brook Taylor, Shae lee Hart, Cara Timpani, Marice Alcantra, Melissa Palacios, Lrie Anne Sarcepuedes, Katherine Zabala, Erica Carreon, Jamie Porter, Richard Baculo, Brian Limco, Andrew Zooghaib, Karen Jehodo

Crew

Huu Tran – Director/Writer

Tony Le-Nguyen – Project Co-ordinator/Dramaturge
Hoa Pham – Senior Writer
Helen Huynh – Writer
Bronwyn Pringle – Lighting designer/operator
Dung Nguyen – Music Composer
Kha Viet Tran – Physical Theatre Facilitator

Ai Diem Le – Assistant Director / Performer
Phong Nguyen – Martial Artist
Rad Rud – Video Artist
Julie Wright – Stage Manager
Kris Chainey – Sound Operator
Sandra Vella – Dance Choreographer
Tien v. Nguyen – Community Liaison Officer
MyPhuong Nguyen – Front of House Manager
Christina Simons – Photographer
Tatia Sloley, Mary Thompson – Publicist

Project Aims

  • Present a creative and innovative series of stories that portray the settlement experiences of members of the Vietnamese-Australian community that includes: the controversy surrounding the arrival of the “boat people”; the stereotypes and racism inflicted on the Vietnamese-Australian community; and the positive contributions and achievements made by Vietnamese-Australians.

  • Bridge the gap that exists between the younger and older generations in the Vietnamese-Australian community and generate understanding and respect.

  • Inform young Vietnamese-Australians about their cultural background, which would subsequently increase their sense of belonging as well as their pride and confidence in their cultural identity.

  • Increase young Vietnamese-Australian’s involvement and participation in the Vietnamese-Australian community and community arts projects.

About the Vietnamese Community in Australia – Victoria Chapter

Raise understanding and awareness about the settlement experiences and contributions of Vietnamese-Australians to both the Vietnamese and mainstream communities.

In 1996, the Vietnamese Community in Australia/Vic. Chapter (VCA/Vic.) embarked on its first major effort to co-ordinate a drug education project titled, “FACE IT”, which was in response to increasing drug use and abuse amongst Vietnamese young people. FACE IT comprised of “Dragon’s Lair”, an education drama portraying the lives of three young Vietnamese-Australians who were caught in the cycle of drug dealing and using. This project largely involved young Vietnamese artists and community organisations such as the Vietnamese Students Association of Victoria, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Theatre Outreach & Y3P, and the Burnet Institute.

More recently, the VCA/Vic implemented a youth disability theatre project together with young artists from the Australian Vietnamese Youth Media, titled “Walking Without Feet”. The project aimed to empower and connect Vietnamese young adults with disabilities and their families through social activities and the creative arts, as well as use theatre or the performing arts as an educative tool to promote and raise awareness and understanding about the issues of disabilities in the Vietnamese and wider communities in an entertaining and informative way. Other organisations that were involved in this project included the Footscray Community Arts Centre and the Migrant Resource Centre.

How did community involved in this project?

The main community organisations that was involved in the project was: the Vietnamese Community in Australia/Vic Chapter, the Australian Vietnamese Youth Media and the and Maribyrnong City Council.  Other organisations and individuals was also involved in the project through various stages, for example, during the recruitment of young participants, the project artists worked with local schools, community organisations and the Vietnamese community for their referral and support. While the promotion and launch of the project will require the support and involvement of both mainstream and Vietnamese media, as well as the support of local organisations and individuals. This is not to mention the involvement of numerous art workers and Vietnamese community members.

As outlined in the project description above, young Vietnamese-Australians will be the main participants of the project and will be involved throughout the project, from the creative process to the direction and management of the project. Older members of the Vietnamese-Australian community will be involved during the data collection stage of the project, whereby they will be interviewed by young people about their settlement experiences in Australia. Various Vietnamese community organisations, of which the VCA/Vic has close working relationships, will be involved in the production and promotional stages of the project to provide their support, expertise and skills to ensure that the project is well promoted and supported by both the Vietnamese and mainstream communities.

Benefit of the project for the community

For the Vietnamese-Australian community, the project provided a sense of reflection on the community’s experiences and achievements in the last 30 years, as well as provide the community with considerations about its future prospects and directions. For the younger and older generations who are involved in the project, they were certainly undergo enormous personal growth and development that will provide them with personal strengths and confidence that will enrich their lives and their relationships with each other. Young people, in particular, built connect and develop links with the Vietnamese-Australian community and the community arts sector, which will facilitate their professional development and future career prospects. While the art workers will be able to utilise and promote their creative and artistic talents and skills.

Comments from the Cast & Crew

From: Ai Diem
To be honest, I was deeply moved by the performance of our wonderful fellow cast members; on stage and off stage. The energy of the performance was exhilarating. It was very magnanimous of everyone to try and work together – from our excellent cast, stupendous crew and our newly befriended awesome dancers. It was big of everyone to be so supportive, understanding and encouraging.

I never had the chance to express this… but the role that I play speaks on behalf of my family. We are very proud to be Vietnamese. We feel a little guilty that our language and culture is slowly diluting. There are many traditions that we still up hold, the most important being respect for the elders and respect for yourself. My parents are always reminding us (the children) to honour our heritage and remember who we are, our roots, our history and our pride of race. The monologue that I speak comes from the heart. I truly believe the words that I speak. We all must try to move on, not to forget. No, never to forget, but to definitely prosper and progress. As they say onwards and upwards. We really can’t go anywhere if we are stationed in the same spot. Advance forward and seek happiness.

One of the audience members spoke very highly of the music and recommended that we merchandised it. We have Anh Dung and the various other talented musicians to thank for. Yes you starlets, you know who you are. Rad should also be congratulated for his genius movie editing. All of montage and footages really help characterize the mood and atmosphere. Guys, remember to high five Chris for his spot on timing (it takes full concentration to follow the play to be in sync with us) thank Bronwyn for giving us light and making us come alive from ordinary to spectacular. How sweet is Julie? she really does takes care of us. I have never seen her in a bad mood or speak inappropriately to anyone. Friends, be compassionate towards Anh Huu, his vision and intention is good. Just good. Don’t take it too personally if he cracks the sh_ts. He only wants what best for us all. Be extra nice to Tony and My Phuong, constantly they are going out of their ways for us. They are so generous and so encouraging.

Take of this love and enjoy yourselves.
You done a great job, so lets do it again.
Every night is a new audience,
so every night deserves a new reinvented performance.
Just as good and just as promising.

Comments from the Audience
From: Ms. Vivienne Nguyen, Commissioner, Victorian Multicultural Commission
Yes the play was extremely well performed, from the themes right through to the acting. This is a play put together and delivered by many second generation Vietnamese Australians, with a few thirty something crew members. And they delivered a powerful storyline, exploring all the key messages endured and triumphed by a community the survived regrettably the most horrific war in the 20th history. That…
They will fight for freedom for Vietnam and their 80 million siblings;
They value the family unit and its foundations;
They will try to better understand their parents’ heritage and traumatic experiences;
They will never fail their parents again;
They will teach their children Vietnamese;
They will participate in the Vietnamese community;
They are proud of their bi-cultural identity; and more….
Makes me now much more appreciative and supportive of the role of community arts and their role in the community. Pretty powerful tool in exploring issues and transcending society norms.

Like Hung, it was one of the moments I felt so proud of being a Vietnamese Australian. For those who heard Mr Tuong Quang Luu (a prominent Vietnamese Australian and Head of SBS Radio) at a recent public function, would’ve heard his views about the challenges facing the Vietnamese community with the lack of links between the first and the second generations. I am glad he had a positive view, because we need not concern no more, for these young people are setting the trend, just on the above messages, and more, in this play. They are already doing the great work of pioneers, a tough job and are very successful at it.

I’m so proud. Thank you to those involved. You all know who you are.

From: Paul Russell and Anne Chan
I hope the cast of “Children of the Dragon” had more sleep than I did last night. As I drove home, so much more of the messages that were in your performance, became much clearer. It left me in deep thought that carried over into the wee small hours.

Helen and jenny have known me a long time and can tell you of a lot of my association with the Vietnamese and Asian communities. Throughout the time I have spent in my life mixing with people of your culture and traditions, I saw so many of the things you all portrayed so well last night, as real life experiences. I saw the parents who arrived on the boats struggle with not only making a new life, but also having to assimilate into a totally different way of life, that held different ideas and ways of doing things. I saw the children growing up, trying to adapt to strange foods, language, ways of dressing, ideas of discipline….(or lack of it) and the effect on them I saw the emotional difficulties of both the parents and children who both found it hard to cope with trying to hold onto the old ways, while at the same time trying to accept the new. I saw the children caught in the middle of 2 cultures trying to satisfy the wishes of the parents in what was expected of them, and at the same time, trying to be seen as part of the new communities and fit in with what was expected of them there.

In many ways, this generation did not have a lot of help your performance last night gave me a deeper understanding of what I thought was occurring in families facing these problems. The words and portrayal of the characters was very moving in so many ways.

“Children of the Dragon” is an educational experience, which should be available for
more to see and learn from, than just those who are lucky enough to witness this current event.

With out wanting to waffle on, I just want to say a big thank you for inviting the public to share your experiences. One line that sticks in my mind is….if I remember correctly, “don’t destroy your soul”

If the general western culture could appreciate that Asians do feel these things, and understand what these things mean to your society…life could only improve.

From a very humble Aussie who was privileged to see something very special. Well done. No greater praise can I give than to say “bloody terrific”

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