Thursday, September 21, 2023

Preview: Old Memories Get New Meaning in Sadec 1965 at Hamilton Fringe

From Washington, to Vietnam, and now, Hamilton, Flora Le has a journey to share at this year’s Fringe Festival. Le’s story- Sadec 1965: A Love Story– about her relationship with her father and understanding her origins took her not just to the destinations featured in her story, but will take her across North America, including New York, San Diego, Montreal, Victoria and Calgary, among others. Through the story, Le uses her life experience to share stories of resilience, forgiveness, personal transcendence and love.

Le’s story examines both her past and present to make sense of her future.

In her present, it’s 2013 and Le rode a motorcycle across Vietnam for six weeks, solo, in an attempt to make sense of her difficult relationship with her estranged Vietnamese father after he is diagnosed with cancer. 

Le was on a quest to understand why her father, who left Vietnam with a scholarship to study in Canada in the mid-1960s, never spoke about Vietnam. Since the answers she was looking for would never come from him, she decided to go on a road trip across the country, riding a total of 2100 miles in six weeks, from the Chinese border in the North to the village of Sadec, her father’s hometown in the Mekong Delta, to reclaim the story of her origins and make sense of the difficult man that her father was. 

But the story begins in the past, before her birth. Her father exchanged love letters with his high school sweetheart; a woman named Hien, whom he left behind in Vietnam during the war. After her father passed away, Le found the correspondence, and while she couldn’t read Vietnamese, knew they held a clue to a piece of the mystery that her father was. 

While Le had the letters, she had no way to read them. Her father never spoke the language with her growing up, so Le couldn’t read Vietnamese. Between 2014 and 2019, Le worked with a team of thirteen Vietnamese to translate the voluminous correspondence the couple exchanged between 1965 and 1971. She shares some of these translations within Sadec 1965

My love, today is our anniversary. If it were not for the Viet Cong making chaos in Saigon, I would have received your letter by now. I don't believe you didn’t write to me. The road to Saigon is difficult to travel so mail delivery is interrupted. The situation hasn't died down here since the Tet offensive. We hear gunshots and bombshells day and night, and it’s the same everywhere so there's nowhere to escape. One can only live for today and accept what will come tomorrow. 

Letter dated May 15, 1968

Le is no stranger to solo storytelling, having participated in the art in different forms since 2017. In March 2019, Le was selected to perform at a storytelling show in her hometown of Washington, where her #metoo story received a rare standing ovation.

Who: Flora Le
What: Sadec 1965: A Love Story
Where: Mills Hardware
When: July 20-24 at various times as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $12 via the Hamilton Fringe Festival

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