This article appeared in the education section of The Union newspaper on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

Xiao Mao Club Brings Asian Culture to Kids

It began as whispered conversations between parents backstage of the Nevada Theatre while their children sang chorus after chorus of “Getting to Know You.” It continued to come up as a topic of conversation at Chinese New Year celebrations and during weekly Mandarin lessons.

“We all thought what a great thing it would be if there was a place where our kids could go and learn more about the arts, crafts, foods, and language of Asian cultures,” says Brett Torgrimson.

He is one of the facilitators for a new program for children, ages 6 to 12 years old, called the Xiao Mao Culture Club.

Xiao Mao (pronounced “shee-ow mou” and meaning “little CATS” in Mandarin) is a cultural enrichment program with the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS.)

Torgrimson recalls,

“Most of us parents whose children were involved in the CATS production of “The King and I” recognized, at the time, what an incredible experience our kids were having. It not only gave my daughter more self-confidence but also a sense of pride in being a Chinese American girl. This experience really ignited a spark in us parents to create more opportunities like this one.”

Juli Marks, a teacher and facilitator for this program, agrees.

“For years, we have been dreaming of a local cultural enrichment program where ALL children, whether they are of Asian heritage or not, can learn more about Asian arts and language and meet other children in the community with similar interests. It’s always been our hope that a program like this would encourage respect and understanding for the individuality and cultural diversity of each person. We shared our dream with the board members of CATS and together we created the Xiao Mao Culture Club.”

The Xiao Mao Club will present a series of 6-week programs in the Spring and in the Fall each year with a Summer Camp program in July. Each program will focus on a different Asian culture. With a nod to the current CATS production of “Teahouse of the August Moon,” the first 6-week series celebrates Japanese Culture. Classes will be held every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30pm April 11th through May 16th in the Ghidotti room at the St. Joseph Cultural Center in Grass Valley.

Classes include an exciting Taiko Drumming demonstration by Grass Valley Taiko Drummers, an opportunity to Make Your Own Sushi with Laura Thorne of Way Yum Sushi To Go, Storigami – a modern take on traditional Japanese storytelling with origami characters, a dramatic special surprise event, an Aikido demonstration with Aikido ‘Ka of Nevada County, and a chance to explore the Japanese watercolor art of Etigami. Participants will also create their own Asian Adventure Keepsake Book.

For kids who are enrolled in the Xiao Mao Spring session, CATS is offering a special backstage tour after the April 20th 9:30am student matinee performance of “Teahouse of the August Moon.” The Xiao Mao Club will also be giving a free ticket to this matinee performance to the first 5 kids who enroll in the Spring program. Space is limited so register now. For tickets to the student matinee performance of “Teahouse of the August Moon” on April 20th, contact Lisa Moon, Student Matinee Coordinator, at or 273-6362 CATSline.

Classes are $75 per student for the entire 6-week session or $15 for individual sessions. Discounts are available if you have more than one child in the program.

For more information or to register for classes, visit or email




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