A Santa Clara renaissance man tackles tough topics with terrific artistic tact
April 4, 2019
Senior Dominic Tran is an artist hard at work creating a space for others to experience cultural and emotional intimacy through art.
“Every artist needs a stage,” he said. “Art needs to be heard.”
Tran has considered himself a writer since age seven, seeing writing as a way to lift the burden of emotions that are difficult to carry, and this need for creative expression has led him to several mediums, including music, playwriting and poetry.
Recently, he has shared his music at the Worlds Collide Showcase in Oakland, and his song “Tie My Hands” with Jordan Maxwell (recorded under Tran’s current stage name, Eiji), has reached a whopping 84,000 plays on Spotify.
The latest of senior Dominic Tran’s artistic endeavors also includes an upcoming play in the Vietnamese Student Association’s (VSA) Culture Show, titled “Long Day’s Journey to Home,” set for Saturday, April 6 in Mayer Theatre. This is the second play he has written and directed.
Tran sees this role as playwright and director through the framework of VSA’s tradition, to present not only a culture show, but a cultural statement.
A critical-thinking approach to the Vietnamese-American experience: an event that really tackles the how and why of the culture. Not an easy objective.
Tran says VSA chooses to acknowledge and dwell within the ‘in-between’ of cultural heritage. As Vietnamese-American students, “the offspring of that union that were born in the middle, they have to reconcile that and realize, I’m not fully American, I’m not fully Asian, either.”
Confucianism and omitted family history present other significant obstacles for Vietnamese-Americans confronting the tension of uniting two distinct cultures.
Tran says that Confucianism, as a Chinese philosophy that has permeated Asian consciousness across the globe, idealizes “familial piety, honoring your ancestry, honoring your parents and most importantly, not to bring shame onto your lineage.”
Combined with American and even Bay Area ideals of capital gain, this family-andhonor ideology seems to lead to a stark sense of isolation.
A grounding sense of identity proves elusive in a cultural reality fraught by contradiction, which is heightened by an inclination to leave the traumatic experiences behind despite pride in Vietnamese traditions.
“Even if you don’t talk about it, it still leaves a hole in your kids, who are also struggling to find a place in the world,” Tran said. “Your history is pretty important if you want to know who you are and what you mean.”
Last year, Tran’s play in the culture show “Memories of Tomorrow” depicted the story of two Vietnamese-American cousins entering Santa Clara together. The title ironically captures the nonlinear way in which Vietnamese-American culture has reconstructed time and memory. One cousin drifts away from the other, struggling with the brokenness of family and experiencing a lack of belonging at the university, eventually dying from an overdose on anxiety medication. The play follows the other cousin as he tries picking up the pieces and understanding what happened.
This year’s show title nods to Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” a play telling the story of another dysfunctional family, which struck a chord with Tran in high school as he saw parts of himself and his own story in what he was reading.
Tran has centered this April’s play on a father-son story: “It’s about a VietnameseAmerican college student who has a strange relationship with his corporate father, and he wonders how he can close that distance between father and son. Through a sci-fi twist, the son finds a way to close it.”
Tran is excited his literary vision is once again coming to life in the physical sphere, and hopes it’s able to build empathy in the community.
He thinks that this culture show’s ability to go beneath the surface provides the opportunity to truly emotionally invest in a fellow human and a different reality.
“It’s an emotionally intimate way to get to know about your fellow VietnameseAmerican student here,” Tran said.
And he hopes to see you there.
Contact Erika Rasmussen at erasmussen@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.