Việt Nam Tuong Theatre!

A Journey of 55 years to preserve and to develop The Tuong Art Stage of VIỆT NAM

(Documentary reference of Việt Nam  Tuong Art Theater)
        Khắc Duyên –Stage playwright  
        Former Director  of Vietnam Tuong Art Theatre

The  Viet Nam Tuồng Theatre, originally came from Northern Performance Art Group which was forming many years and going through many generations and its performance were not only  popular in all over rural areas but also in the big urban cities in the northern region such as:  Hà Nội, Bắc Ninh, Hải Phòng, Nam Định,Vinh ...and in the  Tuồng theatres which were the famous places for Tuong Art performance in all the year round like  Quảng Lạc, Sán Nhiên Đài.
Due to the long time feudal sociaty of east asian material condition style, which had been given big effect to the Tuong art stage development. The Tuong Art and its artists were used to be considered as low position in the sociaty by the colonialism and the feudal regimes for being looked down even lower than maid or  servants citizenship but thanks for loves and unlimited favour of people and of its generations of Artists, the Tuong art has been vitally continuing and existing; thanks for the culture orientation and direction from the Party and government which could be a magical power that created many artist generations to continue its steps to develop art stage of Tuong art.
In 1954, after independence of the country, beside the southern performance soldier groups and other art groups, the Tuong art campaigns and local troups could enrich the flavour of traditional art garden. In the time of Tuong art development and the position of Northern Tuong art stage, there should be a professional art Group performed in a standard and art style to serve for guiding art and organization, therefore in 1959, The Ministry of Culture decided to set up a Nothern Tuong Art Troup. All of the Tuong artists coming from provinces like Nghệ An, Thanh Hoá, Nam Định, Bắc Ninh, Thái Bình, Hải Hưng, Hải Phòng, Hà Tây moved to Hà Nội to take part in the Troup when they heard about good news. At first, the Troup had only 15 people without official places for practice and working so they had to do it at the Ha pagoda and local people residence. In the beginning time, the Troup received great suports of Inter regional No 5 Troup for its slogan “devoted all the life for Tuong Art” from Tuong artists such as: Quang Tốn, Bạch Trà, Doãn Khoái, Đình Nhi, Ngọc Phùng, Ngọc Đống,Văn Kính, Văn Thành, Chu Lượng, Mẫn Thu, Minh Thịnh, Diễm Lan, Chu Hải, Hiệp Tắc, Đắc Hán, Hoàng Bản, Văn Tuy, Như Tường, Lê Bá Tùng, Ngọc Như, Ngọc Duyên, Đoàn Thị Ngà,Thanh Hảo, Hữu Điều, Bà Can, Bà Thứ...
At the Hà pagoda where it used to be quiet with sounds of ritual worshiping but then the drum sound of Tuong art has waken up all the Buddism statues. Many fates of characters in the Tuong plays could be brighter in the sould of reality in the human life with standard casting of characters: Đào Phi Phụng, Đắc Kỷ, Trại Ba,Trương Phi, Triệu Tử Long, Xuân Đào... could be exploited and thoroughly retrained and the old Tuong plays such as Đào Tam Xuân, Mục Quế Anh, Ngũ Viên Thiệu were performed under stage direction as the very first Tuong art plays by the Northern Tuong Art Troup in its early set up time.
In 1962, the Tuong play named “The call of motherland” took part in the Professional Performance Art Stage Festival and achieved The first Goldern Medal which marked an important step in the early eshtablishment. Then the Troup continue by its second historical play of  “Princess An Tư ” by playwright Tống Phước Phổ, stage diretor Vĩnh Phô - Đình Phong, Music  Lê Cường. The play had very diversified content with specific character of Tuong and it could get many good comments from audiences. The victory of the Troup created a new active  inspiration for preservation of Tuong art value in an innovation way.
In the end of 1966 Troup received more famous artists from Tuồng Kim Lan performance Group in Hà Nội they were: Ba Tuyên, Đắc Nhã, Hoàng Phụng, Hồng Nhung, Sáu Tấn... and then the Tuong wonderful plays were introduced to the audiences from the rural areas where the Troup moved to in Hưng Yên province due to American war. Talking about that time, we could not forget to recall the Tuong play called “Đề Thám”, that was the innovative art of collective power, under the stage direction of the Troup Head – Artist Nguyễn Hồng and Stage director Ngọc Phương for its carving special mile stone for building and development of the Northern Tuong Art Career.
Passing the time on the journey of 55 years with preservation and development of traditional Tuong art, the Viet Nam Tuong Theatre has collected the manpowers and innovation of many authors,stage directors, Artists, traditional actors and actresses to introduce 88 plays with many styles of Tradition, history, legend, modern and external literature. Among those plays there have been some standard plays like Sơn  Hậu, Đào Tam Xuân loạn trào, Triệu Đình Long rescure the royality, Đào Phi Phụng, Ngoại Tổ, Phụng Nghi đình, Nghêu-Sò-ốc-Hến, Mục Quế Anh, Thất hiền quyến Trương Đồ Nhục, Lý Phụng Đình...
Beside the old plays, about tens extracts from the excellent plays were selected, exploited and reperformed like: Ôn Đình against Tá, Đào Tam Xuân and the victory, Châu Sáng cross the river, Châu Sương grows beard, Hồ Nguyệt Cô become fox, Xuân Đào cut herself for geting meat, Triệu Tử took over A Đẩu, Nữ Vương destroyed the statue, Trụ Vương made joke to the statue, Old man carrying young wife on his back to attend the festival...  All of the extracts were  invested for practice well for performance, for research to introduce art and become resources for the young artist generations. Thanks for those extracts of old traditional plays, millions of Vietnamese people and international audiences could keep and convey the national vital culture of Viet Nam through Tuong Art performance.

To catch up with social trend development, the Tuong art improved itself to proof the negative statement  “Tuồng art was born by the feudal regime and serve for that regime therefore Tuong art should be considered as the culture and art museum staying at the same rank of temple, old mausoleums…….which were  born many heroic dramas about the nation protection  or life sacrifying during the war by Tuong national characters such as:  Princess An Tư, Trần Hưng Đạo, Female General Bùi Thị Xuân, Lê Lợi, Đề Thám, Stream of flower land, Chu Văn An, The third lady of cai Vàng, Love of mother, No way to choose, Princess Huyền Trân, Nguyễn Tri Phương, Son in law of the King-Than Canh Phuc ... Some other Tuồng plays promote virtue of life and also warning vice people in the sociaty such as: Magical herbal medicine, Love affair of the Monk, Drum beats of vulnerable people, The waken up forest,………those Tuong plays have been lit the national spirit for encouragement and promotion of millions Vietnamese hearts to fight again the invaded enemy and rebuild the country after the war. To access to the global stage  literature , the National Viet Nam Theatre had piloted series of famous world plays like  Romeo and Juliete; Edip to be the King; Tazat Bumba, Otello; Lesite, typhoon….Thanks for the pilot of famous international plays, the Theatre itself becomes more and more improved its professional art performance, enrich the experience as learning by doing and finally serving for international intergration and exchange.

In the time of the pass 55 years, footprints of many artist generations have been put on many country ways, roads and directions, from the delta to mountainous areas, from the urban to the rural areas and to the remote island and location to serve for all people:
“ Commune Yard, School, local people residences are the places that artists attached to be with their whole lives”.

The Tuồng Drum beats arrived Hiền Lương river bank to share sorrows and hardships with Southern people and to give encouragement to soldiers who managed fortress site to work harder for country protection. Image of characters who were inside hearts of soldiers to the battles such as Trần Hưng Đạo, Lê Lợi, Nguyễn Huệ, Lê Viết Thuật, Đề Thám.... In the active summer days with full victory crops, Tuong Artists performed at the farmer festival to celebrating good harvest of the cultivation. The Tuong drum beats crossing the country boders to reach many countries in the world like former Soviet Union, Germany, Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, France, Singapore, Spain, Belgium, the USA…..where ever they went they could receive active suport and welcome from the international audiences at their nation making Tuong artist more proud of traditional Tuong art.
However, in the modern time while Viet Nam country turning to the new era period with new international culture wind entered our nation, making the art and culture opinions changed of many audiences. Young audiences looking for entertainment and hobbies on the internet; middle ages are looking for business opportunities; old people looking for travel and pagodar destination……which making the Tuong theatre facing difficulties as the old plays and new Tuong performance programs lack of audiences. To security for life many Tuong artists gave up the jobs to find out better jobs with more income and life economic security and some of them were working partime as artists and other half to work outside the theatre.
In the traditional proverb, it said “don’t give up things you like when you cope with difficulties”. In the past time, many old artists who were less conditions of living in comparison with present but they still following what they loved in art but they still could produce many long lasting plays and programsm then they became standard of Tuong art for many generations to follow. Thanks for support and attention from the Party and the Government, Tuong artist team have confirmed their roles in the preservation and contribution to its development by pushing up its innovation to exploit and improve quality of existing plays and performance programs which could be famous and meet eligibility for attending National Stage Festivals and Contests to get many complements and silver, gold medals, A and B levels of complements such as they plays named: The call of nation, Đề Thám, Stream of land and flowers, Black sunset, Trần Hưng Đaọ, Chu Văn An, Lý Phụng Đình, Ngoại Tổ, Lý Chiêu Hoàng, Trương Đồ Nhục, Princess Huyền Trân, Hồ Quý Ly, A magical medicines, Thanh xà-Bạch Xà, Triệu Đình Long rescured the King, The waken up forest….thanks for many generations of playwrights who are great and strong and famous team: Tống Phước Phổ, Hoàng Châu Ký, Mịch Quang, Dũng Hiệp, Lộng Chương, Kính Dân, Mai Hanh, Bửu Tiến, Doãn Khoái, Hà Văn Cầu, Thuỳ Linh, Hoàng Đức Anh, Tất Đạt, Hoài Giao, Lê Duy Hạnh, Hà Đình Cẩn, Xuân Yến, Xuân Đức, Văn Sử, Nguyên Ngọc, Văn Biển, Văn Trọng Hùng, Đức Ban, Tiến Thọ, Khắc Duyên, Phùng Dũng, Hoàng Luyện, Phạm Ngọc Côn, Bùi Vũ Minh, Huy Cờ, Đoàn Thanh Ai, Sĩ Chức... and we also should talk about stage director team:  Trần Hoạt,Vĩnh Phô, Đình Phong, Chi Lăng, Ngọc Phương, Đình Quang, Tạ Tạo, Doãn Hoàng Giang, Xuân Huyền, Đoàn Anh Thắng, Vũ Minh, Quang Vinh, Lê Hùng, Hoàng Khiềm, Đặng Bá Tài, Đình Sơn, Khắc Thành, Gia Khoản Trịnh Lê Văn, Trọng Dũng, Hà Bảo,Thuý Ten... Musician team: Tô Vũ,  Lê Yên, Lê Cường, Nguyễn Viết, Đàm Linh, Đỗ Dũng, Nhật Lai, Phó Đức Phương, Trọng Đài, Vũ Ngọc Quang, Ngô Quốc Tính, Xuân Vượng, Đình Lưu, Hiệp Tính, Quang Bình, Trần Vinh...  the stage art designer team: Nguyễn Hồng, Lương Đống, Phùng Huy Bính, Nguyễn Đức Nùng, Đường Tài, Trần Lưu Hậu, Bùi Huy Hiếu, Lê Huy Hoà, Lê Huy Quang, Hoàng Tuyển, Tất Ngọc, Hoàng Song Hào,Nguyễn Dũng, Trần Mậu, Công Quốc Hà, Đinh Quý Thêm... Dance composer team: Đoàn Long, Xuân Định, Trần Minh, Lê Ngọc Cường, Ưng Duy Thịnh, Văn Quang, Trịnh Thị Huệ, Ngọc Bích, Nguyễn Hương thơm,Tạ Vũ Thu..  All of them have made great contribution to the Tuong stage development by building images of good impression plays inside hearts of audiences and making them return to the professional stage of the theatre.

Within 55 years time, 9 generations of artists have formed the theatre to contribute to give more nutrition to the theatre tree to make it more fruitful, talented generation by generation and their contributions have been acknowledged by government when giving them artist title such as  National People Artists: Nguyễn quang Tốn, Bạch Trà, Lê bá Tùng,  Nguyễn Hồng, Nguyễn Ngọc Phương, Lê Huy Quang, Mẫn Thu, Minh Ngọc, Đàm Liên, Tiến Thọ, Hoàng Khiềm, Nguyễn Gia Khoản, Minh Gái, Hương Thơm, Hồng Khiêm; Favoured Artists: Đoàn Thị Ngà, Lê Đình Nhi, Hoàng Hiệp Tắc, Nguyễn Doãn Khoái, Hoàng Hồng Nhung, Nguyễn Quang Minh, Lê Văn Lập, Văn Thành, , Đắc Hán, Tạ Văn Tạo, Nguyễn Viết, Đoàn Anh Thắng,  Quang Hải, Minh Nguyệt, Văn Tuy, Phạm Văn Dị, Xuân Vượng,  Hoàng Hiệp Tính, Ngọc Khánh, Hán Văn Tình, Hán Văn Thân, Minh Sự, Bích Tần, Nguyễn Văn Quý, Anh Dương, Lê Xuân Quý, Văn Thuỷ, Đức Mười. At presents there are some young talented artists that apeared at the stage festivals like : Kiều Oanh, Nguyễn Lộc Huyền, Nguyễn Đức Mạnh, Chu Quang Cường, Trần Long,Vũ Hiền Trang, Tống Xuân Tùng, Nguyễn Văn Quyết Nguyễn Thu Quyên, Nguyễn Hà Thanh, Nguyễn Đình Nam...

To preserve and promote the national tradition of Tuong art for development, the theatre coorperated with the University for Cinema and Theatre to train 8 artist courses, sending for training domestic and oversea of barchelors, Master, and Doctor levels such as 4 playwrights, 13 stage directors, 4 musicians, 4 stage designers, and 2 dance composersn. Thanks for the new innovative people, they made great contribution to the Tuong stage theatre development and then many of them are promoted to be at hight ranking Officers, Management staff of ministry, Institutes, Bureau, Association…. Like Prof. Hoàng Châu Ký, Prof. Hoàng chương, National People Artist Lê Tiến Thọ... To get the present achievement and good results, the theatre could not forget many generations of artists and other art researcher, stage feedback teams who are making the Tuong stage more popular and toward development such as prof. Hoàng Châu ký, Prof. Hoàng Chương, Researcher Phạm Phú Tiết, Hà Văn Cầu, Mịch Quang, Vũ Ngọc Liễn, Xuân Yến, Nguyễn Thị Tình, Từ Lương, Tô Lan, Thu Hiền...  The theatre has owned some researchs at ministry levels with many articles and footages on the Tuong plays which are very practical value. Beside the performance program development, the Theatre concentrated to make documentation on dancings, singings, making up faces of characters, plays and extracts of some famous plays in order to keep and to store for next generation who want to research and to learn more about Tuong arts. The theatre also paid attention on capacity building activities for local audiences and local Tuong art groups by sending professional artists and stage directors to support them in a professiional way to promote the amateur groups in the locality. These works have put into place many good advantages for many provinces and cities where people love Tuong could be more confident to develop.
The above mentioned achievements and results in 55 years have proofed that talented and power of the Theatre management Leaders who are National People Artists Quang Tốn, Bạch Trà, National designer: Nguyễn Hồng, Ông Nguyễn Phúc Quảng, National people artist Ngọc Phương, Mr. Lê Ngọc Quỳnh, Prof. Hoàng Chương, Mr. Nguyễn Duy Phí, Favoured Artist and stage Director Tạ Tạo, Favoured Artist and stage Director Đoàn Anh Thắng, National People Artist Lê Tiến Thọ, National people artist Hoàng Khiềm, Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Nhung, PLaywright Khắc Duyên, Mrs.Tạ Thị Hồng Nâng….and the current Theatre management Board: Mr. Phạm Ngọc Tuấn – Theatre Director, Mr. Tạ Văn Sốp – Deputy Director, National people artist Nguyễn Gia Khoản, National people artist Nguyễn Hương Thơm. The Viet Nam Tuong Theatre is proud of getting national title of the Governments such as 15 National people artists, 31 favoured artists, The First, Second, Third Medal levels of Independence granted by the State of Government of Viet Nam.
The road of 55 years the Theatre passing has acknowledged great and passioned contribution of many artist generationd who making the theatre image more and more beautiful with characters of virture, heroes and their footprints have been put in many roads and ways of the country and introducing history of the nation to international audiences, the memory created by artists of the theatre could be carved inside hearts of many audiences for its deep impression. The whole team of the Viet Nam Tuong Theatre believed that the national heritage could be more and more spreading to people if it get attention and support and investment from the Government.