Vietnamese and

American Identity

In Vietgone, Quang and Tong consider what it means to make a new home in America after being forced to leave their home in Vietnam. As refugees, they are both Vietnamese and American, despite the differences between the two cultures (courtesy of Seattle Repertory Theatre). They feel forced to choose between assimilating and preserving their roots.

Director Desdemona Chiang

"Houston has a huge Asian community, and it will be very satisfying to see their story represented on such a mainstream platform. And I think for non-Asian folks, it's gonna be an opportunity to see an Asian-centered story."

Playwright Qui Nguyen

Is it possible to strike a balance?

The director of this production, Desdemona Chiang, found this theme relevant to her own life. She explains how she considers herself Chinese and American, rather than Chinese-American. She sees the same concept of a dual identity in Vietgone.

"Growing up, every Vietnamese narrative on the planet is always a white guy going to Vietnam and Vietnamese are the bad guys being shot at or they are the people who need saving... In Vietgone, I specifically wanted the Asian characters to be their own heroes."

Playwright Qui Nguyen

Language as Culture

Vietnamese refugees had to learn English quickly, often using phrasing and accents that a native English speaker wouldn’t.

In Vietgone, the Vietnamese characters speak perfect English, including slang and curse words; that way, the audience can experience the true expressiveness these people actually had when speaking Vietnamese.

The American characters, on the other hand, speak with a strong “accent”--bits and pieces of American slang strung together. The audience hears what the Vietnamese-speaking characters would hear: vaguely American-sounding words with no real meaning.

How would English sound to you if you didn't know what any of it meant?

Copyright Alley Theatre Education & Community Engagement 2015.