Anyone who has participated in a performance group has a general idea of what it is like to create the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Like a high school play, you plan your program, you rehearse, you invite people, and then you perform. When it is over, you celebrate with the performers, who by now have become like your temporary family. Then it is all over, except for the recordings, the photos, and the memories.
The analogy goes only so far, however, because few plays are performed over ten days to a crowd of nearly one million people. Few theater groups actually write their own scripts, invite fellow performers they barely know, perform on an improvised basis, and allow the theater patrons to take down the fourth wall by walking all over the set and asking questions.
With the help of APA Program Coordinator Arlene Reiniger, Participant staff members Micki Altiveros and Sandi Tun (a Burmese American community leader outside her Smithsonian duties), Lead Volunteer Zakiya Williams, and the dedicated team of volunteers and interns (Chloe Ith, Yasmine Lee, Callie Nestleroth, Sherina Ong, Kelly Schultz, Akshyeta Suryanarayan, and Laura Zonis ), we were able to shepherd 1,100 Festival participants from their cars to the correct stage, and help them do their food, dance, discussion, and craft presentations.
There were many uplifting moments, but few compared to the look of excitement as a young boy held a calligraphy brush in his little hand yesterday and tried to draw a character. Maybe we will see him again in fifty years as a master calligrapher.
Phil Tajitsu Nash
Curator, Asian Pacific Americans program