Private acting courses seek to attract youth

The Ho Chi Minh City-based Hong Van Drama Troupe, a leading private theatre, is offering training courses in performance skills as the number of talented actors has declined in recent years.
The Ho Chi Minh City-based Hong Van Drama Troupe, a leading private theatre, is offering training courses in performance skills as the number of talented actors has declined in recent years.

The troupe's owner, People's Artist Hong Van, a veteran actress who spent more than 20 years on the stage, said the troupe's new plays were challenging for the young staff.

"To maintain the stage, we need more young, skilled performers," says Van, in her interview with Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.

Van says her troupe's training courses will give young participants a chance to discover new techniques and ways of expressing themselves emotionally on stage.

"Offering professional drama training is part of our theatre's activities so that one day we can be recognised as a speciality art centre," she adds.

Before joining the training courses, candidates aged between 22 and 26, will be selected through several rounds by the theatre's veteran artists.

The winners will work as professional artists while attending class, and will have opportunities to perform in the theatre's main plays and comedies.

Van says she is confident that the students can be trained for different levels of performance.

This month, their first three year-course concluded, which trained 18 young performers who will perform in the troupe's two latest plays, the drama Nguoi Dan Ba Uong Ruou (The Drunk Woman) and comedy Ga Thi Thuong (The Bonus).

"We asked our students to spend at least three years to study the theatre skills," says theatre director and comic actor Minh Nhi, an acting lecturer at prestigious theatre schools, including the Hong Van Drama Troupe.

The troupe also provides students a chance to perform with veteran colleagues, including their teachers, on stage during their training.

"On stage, they can learn that theatre is not a game. Without hard work and sacrifices, they will never become professional even if they have talent," Minh says.

His best students, including Thuy My, Khanh Ly, Ngoc Giao, Hoang Long and Hoang Nhan, have performed in dramas and won plaudits from audiences.

Actors snub traditional arts

In recent years, the performing arts scene has expanded rapidly with an increasing number of young talents achieving success in modern art forms, but traditional forms like drama, cheo (traditional opera) cai luong (reformed theatre) and tuong (classical drama) have been ignored.

For instance, about 2,000 candidates last year applied to the Hanoi University of Theatre and Cinematography, but none to the tuong course.

"We are facing a shortage of young, skilled tuong performers," Le Chuc, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Theatre Artists Association, says.

Chuc, a tuong actor, says cultural authorities should invest in producing talented young artists if the art was to truly develop.

Minh agrees with Chuc, saying that theatres, particularly private art troupes, should independently headhunt and train their own staff of young performers.

Traditional arts are particularly difficult to master, Minh says.

"In music and cinema, amateurs can practise a bit and perform, but you cannot perform tuong or cheo unless you are properly trained."

To perform, artists use almost all the parts of their body. If they lack a powerful voice, they cannot perform, sing and dance while also expressing the emotions of each character.

Some talented theatre performers in HCM City, such as Dinh The Thanh, Thai Hoa and Thanh Van, act in films and sing pop songs to earn a living, Tiet Cuong from the HCM City Drama Theatre, says.

"The fact is that none of us can live on our income of around 10 million VND a month, even if we are stars on stage. Though our lives are hard, we have a passion for theatre," the 30-year-old actor says.-VNA

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