The dozens of student performers who took part in the annual Cultural Performance Showcase last semester had their own reasons for taking their chance on the beloved Schaeffer Theater stage, the college’s flagship performance venue.
And they all had pretty much the same reaction afterward. “Really, really cool,” said Star Yang ’24, who choreographed and performed a traditional Chinese dance.
Rather than being sponsored by any one student group, the showcase is more of an organic student production with an “if you build it, they will come” vibe. As its poster says, “If you aspire to perform, we have created the stage just for you.”
This year, 16 acts, comprising several dozen performers — all supported by the student production staff of the Department of Theater and Dance — stepped into the limelight of Schaeffer Theatre. Seated before them was a boisterous, overflow crowd of fellow students eager to applaud, cheer, and whoop for each and every performer.
(Theophil Syslo/Bates College)
Here, a few of those performers and members of the production team share what the experience gave them a chance to do and feel.
For Zachary Murguía Burton, a visiting assistant professor of earth and climate sciences, it was a chance to read some humorous original poetry, bring some “levity, light, and hopefully laughter to the room, and bring to the table something from outside of the academic world we all live in.
“Sometimes we may only see one dimension of some of our classmates, our students, our professors,” said Burton, one of two professors, along with Professor of Physics John Smedley (guitar), who performed. “So this is a terrific opportunity to see the promise of the liberal arts community that we have here at Bates.”
For the show’s two exuberant MCs, it was a chance to support each performer while having a blast.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Kayleigh Flaherty ’26, a biology major from Litchfield, Maine. “I was told to act funny, and I tend to do that, so I guess it worked out. I just felt honored to MC such amazing performers.”
In this clip, showcase MCs Lauren Cockrill ’26 and Kayleigh Flaherty ’24 dissolve into gales of laughter after Flaherty’s malaprop, “I’m a biology Mainer.”
As far as being nervous, co-MC Lauren Cockrill ’26, a biochemistry major from Huntersville, N.C., noted that “we’ve had three exams in the past few days, so that knocks the stress out of you. We got to be ourselves tonight, which was really fun.”
Flaherty also did a poetry reading in Chinese. “I’m a Chinese minor, not a major, but I am a Mainer,” she quipped.
For Sakina Saidi ’26, a double major in mathematics and physics who was raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, it was a chance to say thank-you to a Bates friend.
She joined a group that performed a Chinese cultural dance as a way to show appreciation for her roommate, who is from China. “We were roommates last year, too, and when she went home and came back, she brought me a Chinese cultural dress. It is so pretty, and I wanted to surprise her with this dance — and she loved it.”
For Dieu-Linh Hoang Vu ’26, a double major in mathematics and economics from Hanoi, Vietnam, it was a chance to move from audience member to crew member.
Last year, watching the show from the Schaeffer seats, she loved seeing new Bates friends on stage, “not knowing that they could do all these amazing things.” This year, one of the show’s producers urged her to join the team, and she ended up working the light board. “During the tech rehearsal, we were definitely nervous,” she said. “But everything just came together, like magic.”
For Kae Yan ’24 of Shanghai, China, it was a chance to show her organizational chops by co-producing the show with Annie Li ’24 and Kendall Jones ’25. “We made this happen and we tried our best to reach out to as many people as possible. We did a lot of things — I cannot remember all of it — but yeah, we made it happen.”
Yan said it was a chance to feel proud of her animation skills, which she employed to create a projected animation for one of the dances. “It’s hand-drawn, and it took a month to finish. So I’m really proud of myself.”
Yan is president of the student organization ACE-Plus, whose members express Asian culture through a wide range of performing arts. The showcase was a chance to bring more people into the arts circle. “So many students have talent but don’t have a chance to actually perform on a theatrical stage,” Yan said. “We just want to create a stage for people to shine.”
For co-producer Annie Li ’24, a neuroscience major from Oslo, Norway, it was a chance to return to a childhood interest. “I danced a lot of Chinese traditional dance when I was young, but gave up in middle school. I really wanted to re-do it. It was a lot of fun.”
And for co-producer Kendall Jones ’25, a biochemistry major from Plymouth, N.H., it was a chance to feel pride in her community and feel the trust that the performers placed in the production team. “It would be easy for performers to think, ‘Do they really know what they’re doing!?’ So I’m really happy and thankful for all of their trust and help.”
Jones also gave a shoutout to Michael Reidy, longtime senior lecturer in theater and managing director of theater and dance. “He helped us a lot, a lot, a lot!”
For dancer and choreographer Star Yang ’24, a double major in psychology and dance from Guangzhou, China, it was a chance to find a dance partner.
“I had been thinking about this dance for two years now, but I was always lacking a partner. And then I asked Annie Li, ‘Do you want to do the piece with me?’ She said yes. And everything ended up really, really cool.”
During the days of pandemic and quarantine, Yang turned to YouTube to learn traditional Chinese dance. “I was in my living room. I don’t know what to do, so I’m dancing. Once I started, I really enjoyed it.”
She particularly enjoys “becoming a character in the dance. You get to become the stories. You get to live someone else’s life. Like a love story, a sad one, but a really cool one. I really enjoy bringing these on stage to share how emotions, stories, characters from history can be relived through dance.”
“Being on the stage is just such an opportunity for me to engage with my body and also the music. I never expected that to happen.”Elaine Wang ’27
For Jaewoo Kim ’25, a sociology major from San Ramon, Calif., it was a chance to watch others. “Annie and Star’s piece almost made me tear up. It was very powerful and seeing everyone perform like that and being able to express themselves.”
For dance performer Elaine Wang ’27 of Shanghai, China, it was a chance to do something she didn’t think was possible.
“Before I went to Bates, I never knew that we could have a chance of performing on the stage. Before I came here, I’ve never learned Chinese dance or hip hop.”
“I feel happy to stay here with all the people who are really engaged in performing and all the teachers who support us,” she said. “Being on the stage is just such an opportunity for me to engage with my body and also feel the music. I never expected that to happen.”
For Aneeza Ahmad ‘25, a double major in politics and environmental studies from Sharon, Mass., it was a chance to sing before a live audience for the first time in her life.
“Singing and songwriting has always been a hobby of mine, but by myself, in my room. I’ve always wanted to share it with people, a real audience.
“My friends are always performing here, so I’m used to being in the audience. But I’ve never been backstage before — I got lost so many times. It is such a maze back here. So that was kind of fun, kind of exciting. But yeah, it was great.”