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Vivienne Truong Dives into a Unique Perspective of the Vietnam War in Her Performance of Vietgone

Sexy, funny, and touching – these are the words that describe the impacting performance of Vivienne Truong in the well-respected play, Vietgone. Written by Qui Nguyen, Vietgone tells the story of two Vietnamese refugees who meet at a refugee camp in Arkansas during the fall of Saigon. Truong is casted into multiple characters, including the writer himself who narrates the passage of the story. The play paints a picture on how his parents met, along with the conflicting decision that the protagonist needs to make: should he return to Vietnam to reunite with a family who thought he was dead or stay in the land of opportunity where no one really understands him?

This spring semester, Vivienne Truong will graduate from San Jose State University with a dual degree in psychology and theatre arts. Originally focusing on obtaining a job in psychology, Truong had a discussion with her mom and siblings, saying, “Mom, I missed performing. I used to perform a lot. I would play the guitar ensemble in high school.” From there, her mom suggested she move forward with theatre arts and pursue the things she enjoys in life. Truong then connected with professor Amy Glazer of the film and theatre department at San Jose State University who helped her obtain the track for a dual degree program.

Needless to say, Truong’s accomplishments in theatre were not done alone. Her mom pushed her to do a lot of artistic extracurricular activities. Truong studied dance, piano, and guitar. Her mom had always encouraged her children to not only do well in school, but also make room for the fun things in life. Interestingly, Truong hated and dreaded performing in front of people in her younger years because she didn’t want to follow the cookie-cutter version of what a girl is supposed to be – feminine and artistic. It wasn’t until high school that Truong found appreciation in the arts and learned that while being strong one can also embrace feminine values in many ways.

In the past month, Truong remembered seeing a poster from the City Lights Theater Company from downtown San Jose. A friend of hers had suggested Truong to audition for their upcoming plays. She was, at first, inconfident of her skills because the theatrical performances looked amazing and professional. Nonetheless, Truong auditioned for Vietgone and by surprise, she had received a callback for her stellar performance.

Truong played multiple roles on stage, including the Playwright, Giai, Bobby, Captain Chambers, Redneck Biker, and Hippie Dude. She worked closely with director Jeffrey Lo who provided a lot of patience, compassion, and understanding to collaborate well with his fellow performers. Truong stated that she had a sense of impostor syndrome when entering the theatre, but Lo reminded her to not be afraid – there was a reason why she was casted.

As a child of immigrant parents, Truong’s performance truly emerged from Vietgone when she embraced a Vietnamese-American character who questioned the events of the Vietnam War. For many Vietnamese Americans, history textbooks portrayed the Vietnam War as a mistake. Truong took the time to ask about her family’s experience and learned, in addition to her character’s experience, that some people want to keep the past in the past. As painful as it was, Vietnamese people fought alongside Americans. The war was real to the Vietnamese. People were oppressed and dying – it was a scary experience no matter what age they were.

Depicted through an intimate performance between Truong and the father in the story, they explain that the history taught in American schools is not the whole truth. The satire of the story invigorated Truong’s pride and passion to represent the Asian community in her theatrical performances. The show provides so much with its hip-hop and rap storytelling, but also makes the audience never forget that Vietnamese identity is so much more than the war itself.

Vietgone will be running in downtown San Jose, California, until Sunday, April 24th. To see Vietgone with Vivienne Truong and many other talented actors, get your tickets through this link here!


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