Experience the stories and songs of 12 different cultures from around the world as Rangeela, Calvin College’s international cultural showcase, lights up the stage at the Covenant Fine Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24.
Rangeela, which is the Hindi word for “colorful,” is a student-run event returning for its 23rd installment at Calvin. Beginning at 8 p.m., the program will feature a variety of acts that represent countries and regions such as India, Ghana, the Middle East, Germany, and more.
The theme for Rangeela this year is “Yours, Mine, Ours,” an ode to the student committee’s desire to celebrate both the differences and the similarities of the many cultures that make up Calvin’s community.
Lemuel Ong, a senior and this year’s co-director, said the committee wanted a theme that would celebrate diversity but also be inclusive of the entire student body.
“When it comes to culture, yes, there are a lot of differences,” Ong said. “We want to recognize that but also recognize that in life there are a lot of things that we share as well, such as values or things that we treasure.”
In addition to putting a lot of thought into the theme, the student committee works hard to prepare for every aspect of the show. Planning for the next year’s performance starts as early as March when the new student committee is assembled, and they begin brainstorming themes and concepts over the summer.
During the fall semester, act leaders are recruited and present their ideas to the committee. Once they are approved, they begin inviting students to participate in their acts and conducting rehearsals. A set of final auditions takes place at the end of January, during which the committee makes sure the rehearsals are going well and begins to put together the order of the show.
Ong said he is genuinely surprised by what the students have come up with for this year’s Rangeela and how they’ve expanded on the theme.
“It’s interesting because when we give the theme to the act leaders, that’s just where they start,” Ong said. “A lot of what they end up trying to convey are things like inclusiveness, being welcoming, or how some values transcend culture.”
These kinds of ideals are what has characterized and shaped Rangeela throughout the years. Former Calvin student and founder Anne Zaki first came up with the idea for an outlet for international students to come together and highlight their cultures back in 1995, and since 1996, Rangeela has existed to allow students to show where they are from and why it matters to them.
“It’s a good chance for us to start conversations about culture because sometimes people shy away from it just because they’re afraid of offending people,” Ong said. “This is understandable, but I think part of why Rangeela exists is to be that starting point for talking about culture.”
Rangeela started off as a small-scale event but has gained traction over the years – growing along with Calvin’s growing number of international students. The show sells out both nights almost every year.
This year, Ong has sought to expand Rangeela’s reach beyond Calvin College and into the Grand Rapids community as a whole. He wants to remind attendees that, first and foremost, Rangeela is a show.
“We’re not here to claim that we have all the answers and paint a full picture of culture,” Ong said. “We want people to come and enjoy the show, and we hope that they leave feeling entertained but also that they’ve gained a new perspective and a new understanding of cultures from around the world.”
To purchase tickets and learn more visit Calvin College.