Friday, Oct. 6, the College of William and Mary’s Chinese Student Organization hosted its annual Harvest Moon Festival in Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium that included performances and dances. The show, titled “Harry Peng and the Deadly Suns,” was followed by a catered dinner from Peter Chang.
The Harvest Moon Festival, also referred to as the Moon or Mid-Autumn Festival, takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar year. It is a traditional Chinese celebration that focuses on honoring the harvest moon in hopes of promising a good yield of crops. It is also a time for reuniting with family, gazing at the moon and eating delicious mooncakes, a rich Chinese pastry with different fillings that are typically sweet. This festival is also celebrated by other East and Southeast Asian cultures under different names, such as the Chuseok festival in Korea.
CSO president Vanessa Yen ’26 also expressed pride for the show’s inclusivity as she says it allowed students from all different backgrounds to learn and experience some of the traditions, cultures and myths that make up Chinese culture.
“It doesn’t matter what race you are, it doesn’t matter what language you speak at all,” Yen said. “[The show is] open, and it should be accessible to everybody because in the end, it’s an appreciation of culture. It doesn’t matter. Whatever knowledge you came in with, whatever language you came in with, it’s just meant for everybody.”
For this year, the CSO decided to adapt elements of the popular Chinese folk tale of Cháng’é (嫦娥) and Hou Yi (后羿) into the well-known 2009 Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Co-culture chair Sophia Caldarone ’24 commented on the intricate planning process that took place months before the show and how the cultural chairs’ love for the Harry Potter book series came into play for their final decision for the show’s theme.
Another element that influenced their choice was the popularity and recognizability that the Harry Potter saga carries as Caldarone noted it was important that they made the Chinese myth behind the festival accessible and understandable for everyone in the audience.
“We’re just trying to get people interested in the cultural history of the Harvest Moon Festival,” Caldarone said. “Relating it to popular media has always been something we’ve done before. Last year, we did Percy Jackson, so that’s why we chose Harry Potter because it’s also popular.”
The tale of Cháng’é was seamlessly incorporated into the plot of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” while also including LGBTQ+ themes. In the show, Draco Malfoy, played by Igor Gobulkov ’27, has a love interest that goes by the name of Harry Peng, played by Aakash Vittala ’27. Audience members follow the trio of Hermoine, Ron and Harry Peng as they go an adventure to try and eliminate the horcruxes — or in this case, the suns — which Voldemort places fragments of his soul into in exchange for immortality as long as these objects are not destroyed.
Within its storyline, the show also featured a multitude of dances performed by different members of CSO as well as student-run dance crew Zodiacs. These dances, choreographed by the CSO performance chair Alice Ji ’26, ranged from modern to traditional, with energetic fan dances and graceful water sleeve dances.
CSO member and dance performer Clare Yee ’27 described how preparation for the show gave her ample opportunities to not only pick up new skills, but also make new friends.
“Training was really fun,” Yee said. “We would meet over the weekend and we would learn the choreography from Alice, it was a really great way to meet new people. Learning the dances was also really fun because it was a style of dance that I had never done before.”
Audience member Rachel Huang ’27 expressed particular appreciation for the dance performances, which stood out to her while watching the show.
“I liked all of the dance segments of the show,” Huang said. “I thought the show overall was really good, but my favorite part was definitely all of the dance performances.”
“One of my friends is the performance chair, so she helped choreograph two of the dances, and one of my friends is acting, so I’m just very proud of them because they put a lot of work into it,” audience member Mia Hanlon ’25 echoed.
A touching moment near the end of the performance was when Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father, accepted Draco’s rejection of his father’s future evil plans for him, which then allowed Draco to open up to his father about what he truly wanted to pursue in life: his love for Peng. The audience’s gushing and cheering following this scene resonated around the auditorium and returned at the end of the performance when all the cast and crew members went back on stage for final bows.
At the conclusion of the show, Vittala fondly recounted his positive experiences rehearsing for the show and says his time with the CSO community has been one full of fun.
“It’s definitely been an adventure, especially because a lot of our rehearsals will be from 9 to 11 [p.m.] or so,” Vittala said. “But genuinely, I think it’s been some of the best times I have had on campus. Everyone is very welcoming, everyone is very goofy, it’s very funny, so it makes it a good time. You forget how much time has actually passed when you’re performing and rehearsing, so I’ve had a blast at rehearsals.”