A crowd of more than 200 people cheered in the Rigas Family Theater Wednesday night as members of the St. Bonaventure University Asian Students in Action club took a bow.
Nearly a year’s worth of scriptwriting, choreographing and rehearsing culminated in the 90-minute performance of “Alice in Wonderland,” a classic done with a twist.
“We tried to just take the experiences that we’ve had as Asian-Americans and … fit that into Alice’s character and the other characters that are in Wonderland,” Tharini Nagarkar, a junior at St. Bonaventure and creative co-director of SBU ASIA, said.
Each year, the members of SBU ASIA perform their own version of a classic story, taking inspiration from their lived experiences as Asian-Americans. The entirely student-run productions contain cultural and societal messaging while showcasing elements of cultures from across Asia.
“Generally speaking, [the show is] very reflective of some of our own lives as Asian-Americans,” Arden Bui, a senior at St. Bonaventure and creative co-director of SBU ASIA, said. “We have pressures … whether it’s who to marry or what type of career you should go into.”
Bui and Nagarkar reworked the original story to have Alice share her anxieties over common struggles many young Asian-Americans experience, such as dealing with the pressures of arranged marriages and choosing career paths. By the end of the show — and with help from many of the other characters — Alice realizes her happiness comes from taking control of her own life.
The show switched back and forth between scenes featuring dialogue and nine distinct, elaborate dances. Each dance took inspiration from a different Asian culture or ethnic tradition. Throughout the play — but especially during the dances — most characters ditched their familiar Disney looks for more traditional Asian clothing.
“Especially with the club that we are — in terms of multicultural representation — we want to give our students some voice and have them be able to showcase their culture to an audience,” Nagarkar said.
While the show makes larger cultural and societal points, Bui and Nagarkar emphasized that they prioritized ensuring everyone — from actors and dancers to audience members — has fun.
“We tried to frame the story … without making it too serious,” Bui said. “Because at the end of the day, we want this to be fun.”
Throughout the show, characters made many St. Bonaventure-specific jokes and references to the experiences of college-aged people, most of which elicited audience reactions.
“This is obviously all in good fun, and we want to make people laugh as much as possible,” Nagarkar said.
Nagarkar and Bui said lots of time, hard work and sacrifice went into making the show possible. Scriptwriting, choreographing and actor rehearsals amounted to 10-plus hours of work for different club members to do weekly over the better part of two semesters.
“On average — for just the script writing — one session might take like two hours,” Bui said. “This is, like, at midnight, because, you know, we have classes.”
Bui added jokingly: “So, we’re not the most sound of mind at that time [midnight]. So, the next week, we have to reread what we wrote to see if it makes sense. And, sometimes, we don’t even remember we wrote this.”
Bui and Nagarkar said this year’s audience turnout showed a significant improvement over last year’s. They said the club feels as though it keeps gaining momentum.
“Keep it going,” Nagarkar said. “We’re going to work towards finding a theme for next year. And the process is kind of eat, rinse and repeat.”
Source : Tapinto