Domestic traditional theatre in the North lacks interesting plays and the audience for such plays is diminishing, so a proposal by the Viet Nam Theatrical Artists Association to build a national performance centre has raised eyebrows in certain quarters.
Association chairman People s Artist Trong Khoi discusses the matter.
Could you provide the background of the initiative to building a national performance centre?
Actually, the proposal was put forward a year ago. Since then, the project has been waiting for agencies concerned to give the nod. I am not 100 per cent sure the building will go ahead but I believe it is a must if we are going to preserve our culture and integrate it into world culture.
The proposal is not just to build a single theatre but rather a complex of theatres.
I have visited the national arts centre in South Korea and was impressed. The centre in Seoul was built 10 years ago. It contains stages for opera, cinema, symphony, orchestra and children s performance. The architectural style is European but the theatre for traditional performing arts is in the traditional style.
I suppose we can build a similar complex.
Can you tell more about the centre your association has proposed?
Well, the centre should include a museum, library, offices for foreign cultures, ice skating rink, a stage for disabled people and another for traditional opera, restaurants, a hotel and so on. In short, it should be a centre for a wide range of cultural experiences.
While it is okay to organise art festivals in many localities throughout the country, we need to establish a high quality cultural address for the whole nation, a single venue with all the proper conditions for various art forms.
How do you explain the trend for southern theatre activities to diversify and divide into many addresses with specific styles while in the North theatrical activities have been centralised in big centres?
Southern artists are better at marketing and trading than northern ones. They have drawn specific audience for specific stages. For example, Phuoc Sang audience never watches dramas at Hong Van s stage or stage 5B Vo Van Tan Street and vice versa.
Southern audience have divided into groups with specific tastes, which are thoroughly understood by local artists. They know when and what the audience want to watch.
How will we get enough money to build such a complex?
We will not tap the State budget, we will raise a loan. We will build entertainment centres, restaurants and include other services in the complex which will make a profit to cover expenses and loan outgoings.
Many big international corporations have shown they support the idea and are willing to support it.
It has also been proposed that we have a national drama centre. Is it necessary to have two similar art centres in the North?
The national centre for drama would be a bigger drama theatre to gather the other theatres together. But a national centre for performing arts would be a comprehensive complex rather than a big theatre. The latter would facilitate various art forms, from singing, dancing, ca tru (traditional ceremonial singing), chamber music, tuong (classical theatre) to cheo (traditional opera), cai luong (reformed opera) and water puppetry. I hope this would be a cultural address, something like a second "Temple of Literature" for the whole country.
That would mean two forms of arts in the same complex: some entertainment and some artistic. How will you avoid entertainment surpassing traditional?
We plan a 100 per cent subsidy for traditional arts funded by the entertainment forms.
What makes you think audiences will choose traditional arts ahead of modern entertainment?
The need to train our audiences. We have a very small audience for tuong, cheo and cai luong. Youth now prefer street dancing, hip hop, games and so on. If they don t understand traditional arts, they will not like them. But we need to maintain traditional identity. So I think the biggest challenge to us will be how to train our audience. VNS