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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Breaking cultural barriers through comedy

Undergoing stressful audition processes, dealing with intense criticism left and rightbreaking into the entertainment industry is hard enough. Imagine having to overcome problems of misrepresentation and underrepresentation to boot.

In an attempt to bring attention to Asian Americans in the performing arts, the Asian American Association Film Festival invited UC Berkeley improv/sketch comedy group Theatre Rice to the Davis campus. The event is tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at 1100 Social Sciences. Pre-sale tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the Freeborn Hall Ticket Office. Tickets will also be sold at the door for $10.

Comedian Vijay Suzuki, a UC Berkeley student, will open the show. UC Davis junior international relations major Zuodi Liao will also take the stage with a rap performance.

Theatre Rice was started in 1998 in Berkeley. Their main focus was to provide an organization that promoted Asian American students to perform in the theatrical arts, said Asian American Association Film Festival co-director Allison Arachea, a senior double majoring in film studies and English. The group donates its proceeds to organizations such as the Asian American Theater Company and Youth for Asian Theatre.

It is also one of the few primarily Asian American performance groups in the Bay Area, added Tiffany Young, who is also a co-director of the AAAFF.

Arachea described comedic style of Theatre Rice to that ofSaturday Night Live.She said that though the group sometimes touches on issues within the Asian American community, its comedy is far from esoteric.

“[Theatre Rice] is very universal because they satirize everything,said Arachea.They’re all over the place.

The group also delves in other areas of performing arts, such as dramas, film and music.

“They’re all-around,said AAAFF financial coordinator Johnny Wu, a senior biological sciences major.They do every type of facet in theatre and performing arts. It’s not just that it’s a bunch of Asians doing comedy for Asians, it’s a bunch of Asians doing comedy in general.

In addition to combating skewed stereotypes afflicting Asians in the mainstream media, Theatre Rice also works to remedy the lack of an Asian American presence in the industry.

In Asian cultures, pursuing things like dramatic arts and theater and comedy are not really encouraged,Arachea said.It’s mostly parents who want their children to pursue more conventional jobs.

Wu attributed this traditional way of thinking to the structure of most Asian American families.

“Most Asian American students are either second or third generation Americans [whose] families came to this country to try to succeed,Wu said.The easiest way to do that was to break the language barrier and go into the field of science or math.

“Going into film or theatre is very hardif it’s hard for white people, it’s even harder for Asian people,he added.

Theatre Rice’s performance is just one of the events in anticipation for the Asian American Association Film Festival. The festival, which will be held in May, is sponsored by the Asian American Association, an organization that was established in 2000.

It exists mainly to provide a support network for Asian American students at Davis and to combat stereotypes and address issues that affect [these] students,Wu said.


RACHEL FILIPINAS can be reached at arts@theaggie.org. 


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