The Song Collective

The Song Collective

The Sống Collective was founded by Việt Theatre artists: Carolina Đỗ (she/her), David Lee Huynh (he/him), and Jonathan Castanien (he/him), in the spring of 2019 as a response to the United States’ sharp cuts to refugee resettlement in the face of a global refugee crisis. We felt it was morally

The Song Collective

The Sống Collective was founded by Việt Theatre artists: Carolina Đỗ (she/her), David Lee Huynh (he/him), and Jonathan Castanien (he/him), in the spring of 2019 as a response to the United States’ sharp cuts to refugee resettlement in the face of a global refugee crisis. We felt it was morally irresponsible to be the children of refugees and not recognize the similar situation these people were going through in America’s cycle of imperialism and culpable amnesia. Our first event was a pop-up reading of Vietgone by Qui Nguyen in a vacant storefront downtown, organized to benefit the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), a nonprofit organization that works to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status. From the moment we opened the doors, a community full of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color heard our call and came together to support us. At the end of the night, the question on everyone’s lips was, “what’s next?” The word “sống” in Vietnamese means “to live”. It encompasses the fight for survival our families went through after being forced to escape from their ancestral lands and relocate elsewhere. It acknowledges that life contains a myriad of experiences, ideas, and points of view that should be honored and celebrated in its intersectionality.

About the Organization:

The Sống Collective was founded by Việt Theatre artists: Carolina Đỗ (she/her), David Lee Huynh (he/him), and Jonathan Castanien (he/him), in the spring of 2019 as a response to the United States’ sharp cuts to refugee resettlement in the face of a global refugee crisis. We felt it was morally irresponsible to be the children of refugees and not recognize the similar situation these people were going through in America’s cycle of imperialism and culpable amnesia. Our first event was a pop-up reading of Vietgone by Qui Nguyen in a vacant storefront downtown, organized to benefit the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), a nonprofit organization that works to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status. From the moment we opened the doors, a community full of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color heard our call and came together to support us. At the end of the night, the question on everyone’s lips was, “what’s next?” The word “sống” in Vietnamese means “to live”. It encompasses the fight for survival our families went through after being forced to escape from their ancestral lands and relocate elsewhere. It acknowledges that life contains a myriad of experiences, ideas, and points of view that should be honored and celebrated in its intersectionality.

organizational budget

4 MILLION - 5 MILLION

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • Pennsylvania • Puerto Rico • Rhode Island • South Carolina • South Dakota • Tennessee • Texas • Utah • Vermont • Virginia • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

organizational budget

4 MILLION - 5 MILLION

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • Pennsylvania • Puerto Rico • Rhode Island • South Carolina • South Dakota • Tennessee • Texas • Utah • Vermont • Virginia • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

The Issue:

Our community of Việt artists have been historically barred from being in charge of their own narratives; our stories have been exploited, fictionalized, and caricatured for the profit of others. The Vietnamese population, numbering over 2.1 million, is the fourth largest Asian immigrant group in the United States, but largely abandoned in the popular narrative. Broadway has only produced one musical thus far with Vietnamese characters, however, it was written by white men and largely offensive to the Vietnamese community in its use of Orientalist tropes, racist and sexist representation of Asians and women in general, not to mention its plot revolving around a white savior fantasia. Off-Broadway, Viet playwrights, such as Qui Nguyen and Don Nguyen, are finally getting recognition and the productions they deserve, however, there is a lot more work to be done before there is true equity and representation.

We recognize the lack of space given to our Việt community to heal from the trauma of the war, forced migration, deportation, and rise of anti-Asian violence. Per the Asian-American Pacific Action Coalition, “Theaters of color need to thrive and grow so that they can support BIPOC Theatre artists with living wages for generations to come, and continue to add value to our art form and expand our audiences, both on and Off-Broadway”. A key to dispelling the idea that Asian Americans are a monolith is to tell stories that are specific to each of our experiences. We are addressing the lack of representation and support of Viet artists who work specifically within the theatre community at large by building a pipeline of new works by Viet playwrights, as well as, supporting the training and careers of emerging and established Viet actors, directors, and creatives.

The Solution:

Collective Stories was dreamt up as a program for participants to explore generational healing, culture, and identity. Built around the Free Southern Theater practice of story sharing circles, we asked participants questions that investigated their own personal stories and experiences. The first iteration culminated in an online multimedia event with video, music, and poetry that explored the many facets of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American identity and raised money for RAISE, an organization that advocates for undocumented New Yorkers. We’ve decided to build upon this and move Collective Stories into a cross community building program. Our second iteration explored the relationship between the Vietnamese and Black communities, facilitating conversations surrounding the history of solidarity between communities, anti-Blackness, and coalition building. We intend for Collective Stories to build upon the activism within our communities and work towards a place of healing through the art inspired by the process. Our Viet Writers Lab was launched in 2021 as a way to provide resources, support, and opportunity to anyone who wanted to write for theater. As we searched for more Vietnamese playwrights we found that many were few and far between or that they were in need of further development. The lab was crafted to support writers in three areas: excavation of identity, community, and culture through story sharing circles with the lab participants and invited artists. Professional education via panel discussions with working professionals covering current working playwrights, literary managers, and directors of new plays. And finally creative support through writing deadlines and a workshop reading of their works with professional directors, dramaturges, and actors. This holistic approach gives way for writers of any level to participate and approach the lab with an ability to explore with little limitations and pressure while expanding our canon of work beyond trauma, war stories, and reclaiming of our narratives. https://thesongcollectivenyc.org/communitycommitments/

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