22nd annual China Night highlights culture through performance

Geneseo’s Chinese Culture Club celebrated their highly anticipated annual China Night on Saturday Nov. 12. Every fall, the cultural organization hosts a night in celebration of Chinese culture, complete with authentic Chinese food, dance, music and a play. This year marked the 22nd consecutive year of the night’s performance. “It’s incredible when I think about it,” Chinese Culture Club president biology major senior Tiffani Lee said. “This night has been going on longer than I have been alive, and it’s so great to be a part of this tradition.”

The club started preparing for the function about a month and a half ago. A total of 35 people were involved in the event when the time came to open the doors, including both members and non-members of the club.

The night began with the serving of authentic Chinese food, such as snow-white rice, shrimp-fried rice, plum and pineapple pork sparerib, lo mein and egg drop soup. Club members cooked and served all the food, giving the night a more personal and authentic feel.

Once everyone had sated their appetites, the show began. The performance, titled “A Peony in the Wind,” included everything from romance to intrigue to choreographed dance and fight scenes. And at the center of it all were two leads: Zhang Cheng Li, played by physics major freshman Kevin Zhang, and Lan Mei, played by communication major senior Leah Collazo.

The two portrayed a young couple trapped in a tale of Romeo and Juliet-esque amity, where Lan Mei was unable to be with her love because of his lower social status. The couple, however, threw caution to the wind and fled so that they could be together without anyone judging them.

Each year, members of the club write the skit for this event. The principal author for this year’s fable was biology major sophomore Evelyn Welch.

“I have never written before, so this was a real learning experience for me,” Welch said. “Thankfully, I wasn’t by myself in writing the script. I had a lot of help from our e-board, especially [accounting major sophomore] Eric Wang and Tiffani Lee; they were really invaluable throughout the whole process.”

When writing the script, the club wanted to put special emphasis on the traditional values of Chinese culture.

“We actually based this story off Tiffani Lee’s great-grandparents’ lives in China,” Welch said. “A lot of significance on the filial piety, ancestor worship and Confucianism are Chinese traditions. We saw the peony as a great way to do this, because it is a flower that is usually associated with loyalty respect.”

The club knew that while this may be an enticing part of the play, livening the story up a bit would be a grand addition.

“If it was just a play of nothing but speech, it would have been boring for the audience,” Welch said. “That’s why we added in the dance and fight scenes. They really made for a great spectacle, and we had a lot of fun practicing them.”

All in all, China Night was a great way for the club to entertain the students of Geneseo as well as to tighten their bond as a club.

“At the end of this, I really feel like we are much more of a family,” Welch said. “We had some difficult parts of rehearsal and writing the play was no small feat, but now we are closer than we have ever been before.”