Harvest Moon Festival celebrates many cultures


    All is not well in the Chinese heaven. The heaven Emperor’s sweetheart, Chang’e, has fallen for his lieutenant, the dashing Kung-Fu master Houyi. In a fit of rage, the Emperor has banished both Chang’e and Houyi to Earth. There they acquire the Moon Cake of Life, which will allow them to rise up to heaven again.

    The catch is that they have to wait for one year before eating the Moon Cake, otherwise they will fly to the moon instead of flying to heaven. This is trying for Chang’e, who is tired of being an earthly housewife to Houyi. Will the couple stand the trial and live happily ever after in heaven?

    Meanwhile, in Vietnam, a peasant named Cuoi has cured the princess of his kingdom with leaves from his magic tree. In gratitude, the king gives him the princess’s hand. The princess’s job at her new home is to look after the magic tree. But one day she urinates on the magic tree accidentally, and it becomes very, very angry. What can the princess do now?

    Friday’s Harvest Moon Festival answered these questions. Jointly organized by the Chinese Student Organization and the Vietnamese Student Association, the Harvest Moon Festival celebrates Chinese and Vietnamese each year traditions.

    “Cultural groups are important because [they are] a way for people to connect with each other. People can make friends as well as understand a way of life outside America,” VSA President Kim-Anh Tran ‘13 said.

    Since 2001, the Harvest Moon Festival has been a staple of the College of William and Mary’s cultural calender. To keep the festival lively, the organizers try hard to make each year’s show unique.

    “Before, we typically stuck to extremely loose interpretations of the Chinese myth surrounding the tale of Houyi and Chang’e, but this year we are showcasing both the Chinese story and the Vietnamese story,” VSA vice president Tara Cassens ’13 said. “Though both have common elements and celebrate the same event, the stories are quite unique and share a lot about their respective culture.”

    Interspersed with traditional and modern dance, Kung-Fu, theater and multi-media elements, the show entertained and educated a full audience. Highlights of the show included a traditional Vietnamese lion dance, a Kung-Fu fight scene, and fusion dance.

    “The time commitment was substantial,” Pia Spinner ’13, who played the Vietnamese princess, said. “We rehearsed three hours per night from Sunday to Thursday for three weeks. But it was a lot of fun.”

    The preparations for the Harvest Moon Festival were arduous. While VSA and CSO choreographed the dances and wrote the script during the summer, rehearsals only began three weeks before the show was performed on stage.

    “Rehearsals for the fight scene were brutal,” member of CSO Zahariah Nealy ’12 said. “We put in blood, sweat and tears. Everyone was 100 percent dedicated to putting on a great show.”

    The cast included students of Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, American and Hispanic heritage; the show also acknowledged the sexual diversity of the campus, by including two gay characters in the skits.

    “Of course we’ve put our own [William and Mary] and American influence on the show,” VSA Treasurer Cynthia Arzola ’13 said. “The stories that the plots are rooted in [are] traditional, but the theatrical framing device that opens and closes is entirely American. Also, throughout the show we’ve interspersed a lot of American contemporary humor and references. Hopefully, these will make the traditional stories come alive so that a modern audience can relate to formerly two-dimensional characters.”

    The clubs worked hard to incorporate a diverse range of experiences through different cultural outlets. They
    also hoped to share the Chinese and Vietnamese cultures with campus.

    “We add diversity to the campus and provide an outlet for members of our community to express their culture,” CSO President Kenneth Qiu ’13 said. “To me, it has allowed me to share my culture with others, while deepening ties to my Chinese heritage.”