Showcasing unasSAILable talent

Students bring talent and culture to Friday Underground stage


Ellen Kanzinger

Henry Luzzatto, the winner of the night’s competition, performs stand up at Friday Underground. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger, ’18.

Sutton Travis

What do Indian poetry, Miley Cyrus and Japanese pop music have in common? Washington and Lee students combined these elements, plus more, into an evening of performances, coffee and culture.

The Student Association of International Learning presented its annual talent show Nov. 13 at the Arts, Recreation and Culture House, in conjunction with Friday Underground. The show featured 14 acts that ranged from covers of American pop music to a traditional Korean instrumental piece.

Monetary prizes were awarded to first, second and third places, selected by a panel of judges. The first place winner was Henry Luzzatto, ‘18, with his stand-up comedy act based on his experiences growing up in a small town and transitioning to college life.

“Friday was the first time I performed any of that material, so I was a little nervous about how it would go, but I’m really happy about how it was received,” Luzzatto said. “Winning first was really nice, because it was the first time that I’ve ever really received recognition for comedy. As soon as I heard about where the money was going, I knew I had to sign up and help. [The Zorig Foundation] is a great cause that’s supported by a lot of very cool people.”

SAIL, an organization committed to improving cultural diversity on campus and promoting relationships between people of different cultures, hosts the showcase as its signature fall event to raise funds for an international philanthropy project.

“We hope that this effort will help SAIL reach out to a larger student community than we have before,” Chris Tran, ‘17, president of SAIL, said. “The number of qualified performances has greatly increased this year, and we have a diverse program. I’m really excited to see how successful it will be.”

This year, Meera Kumar, ‘16, proposed that SAIL support the Zorig Foundation of Mongolia, a non-governmental organization that works to increase democracy through improved governance, youth empowerment and community-building. Kumar, along with Oyumaa Daichinkhuu, ‘16, spent a month during the spring of 2015 interning with the organization.

“During my time there, I was really touched by the quality of the staff at the Zorig Foundation,” Kumar said. “I was also impressed with the work they do in terms of strengthening democracy. The SAIL showcase seemed like the perfect way to give back to Zorig–to promote their ideals and also thank them for creating a meaningful experience for me this past year.”

Entrance to the showcase was free, but SAIL sold T-shirts featuring both their logo and the Friday Underground triangle, with the profits benefiting the Zorig Foundation. Between each act, audience members were also reminded to donate in various baskets located around the room.

In the spirit of the globally-focused evening, Yoko Koyama, ‘19, incorporated both American and her homeland’s culture into her performance by singing “Cups” by Anna Kendrick, as well as a Japanese pop song about the value of life being more than money.

“In the second verse, the [Japanese] song talks about how our values cannot be exchanged with money,” Koyama said. “A lot of times, college can be so overwhelming that I forget about how good of a person I am and how much strength I have. The song reminds me of this, and it gives me power to be confident and have faith in myself.”

Other upcoming signature SAIL events include cultural cooking lessons, the International Fashion Show, Evening Abroad and  Holi event.