Thursday, December 8 2016

VietNamNews

Solo puppeteer keeps going

Update: September, 25/2016 - 09:00
Puppets are displayed at Học’s museum. He considers them as friends and want to introduce them to more people.
Viet Nam News

Dương Văn Học, who has been a solo puppet artist most of his life is still busy with the art.

He has, in fact, started a puppet museum at his home in Nha Trang City.

Most of his puppets are models of Vietnamese heroes and animals.

To keep up with the times, he has to bring things that are to do with modern life into his puppet shows.

At the age of 75, artist Dương Văn Học, who is well known as a pioneer in contemporary solo puppetry in Việt Nam, is still busy performing, teaching and writing about puppetry and managing a small “puppetry museum” in the coastal city of Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa Province.

Early this year, his private “Contemporary Solo Puppetry Museum”, the first of its kind in the country, was opened at his house on 92B Dương Hiến Quyền Street, Nha Trang City.

The museum is said to be a long-nurtured dream of Học who has identified himself with puppetry for over 30 years.

During the early stage of his career, Học used to work as a dance scriptwriter and stage director. In 1984, he began working at the Việt Nam Puppetry Theater where his passion for the art blossomed.

He pioneered and introduced contemporary solo puppetry in 1992, and so far is the only local pursuer of the art.

His newly-established “museum” has a modest area of 50sq.m, where he is displaying more than 120 puppets.

Most of the puppets are shaped after Vietnamese heroes and animals that the artist has crafted and performed with across Việt Nam and in tens of other countries over the past two dozen years.

The puppets of various sizes and types, in different colours and patterns reflect multiple characteristics or points of view.

Học said that like life, puppetry contained the good, the bad and the combination of good and bad.

“Each of my puppet shows must deliver a message relating to a certain view of humanity, the world and life,” Học said, adding that this was the key to attracting audiences and gaining their hearts.

Audiences, both local and foreign, have been impressed by Học’s shows, including The Boat on a RiverThe Death of a SwanThe ClownGirl or Spider and Behind the Eyes.

When recalling past performances, Học remembers 20 years ago when a Korean viewer was moved to tears after watching the show The Boat on a River.

The puppet show presents two rival crews fighting on the same boat. The boat staggers, fails to dock and is almost stricken by big waves.

Some audience members told him that they saw themselves and their situation in the puppet show, Học said.

“I want to bring reality into puppet shows as I see many similarities between them,” Học said.

He revealed that occasionally he spent sleepless nights making puppets and writing scripts. Sometimes, it took him a few months to complete the puppets and script for a new show, he said.

“Modern life develops to become more and more complicated, which forces puppetry and puppet performers to change to be able to catch up with it,” he said.

In 1998, Học performed The Death of a Swan in Paris. A viewer met with Học and said he would pay US$500 for one of Học’s puppets.

Học refused and said, “If you like, I will make another puppet for you. This puppet is a friend of mine. I cannot sell my friend.”

Vietnamese puppetry

Học said that it was a great happiness for him when visitors to the museum felt it interesting.

A group of Russian tourists on their trip to Nha Trang happened to know about the museum and visited it.

During their visit, they looked at the puppets and listened to Học carefully and with interest when he told them about each puppet as well as its message or the point of view the puppet maker wanted to deliver.

“When they said the tour helped them understand more about Việt Nam, its culture and art, I was so happy and proud,” Học said.

One special guest to the museum has been poet Bằng Việt who is president of the Hà Nội Writers and Artists Association. After a visit, Việt wrote to Học that he was impressed by the way the museum was organised.

“The museum presents a typical type of culture from northern Việt Nam and Văn Học possesses the typical characteristics of northern feudal intellectuals”, Việt wrote.

Học was born in Hà Nội, but left for Khánh Hòa to work with the Phú Khánh Artistic Group. In 1984, he returned to Hà Nội and found his real passion with puppetry.

Keeping his love of beautiful Nha Trang City in his heart, Học returned there to spend his retirement and realise his dream of puppetry preservation.

Besides opening the museum, Học writes books on puppetry and teaches the art to pre-school teachers so they can help spread the love of puppetry to more people, particularly children.

The museum’s modest area once hosted almost 30 pre-school kids at once. The narrow space couldn’t prevent them from enjoying stories illustrated with small hand puppets such as “Clever goat”, “Two goats crossing a bridge”, and “Smart bunny”.

“The happy eyes and laughter inspired me a lot,” he said. The museum also highlights collections of photos and newspaper articles about Học’s solo puppetry, and books on the country’s time-honoured art of puppetry which he has written over the years.

The museum is open free on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Those interested can phone Học at (+84) 986 071 420 before paying a visit to the museum so that the artist can prepare and possibly offer a “special surprise”.

“I do it as I want more people to know about Vietnamese puppetry,” he said. VNS


 

GLOSSARY

At the age of 75, artist Dương Văn Học, who is well known as a pioneer in contemporary solo puppetry in Việt Nam, is still busy performing, teaching and writing about puppetry and managing a small “puppetry museum” in the coastal city of Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa Province.

A pioneer is someone who starts something.

Contemporary means “happening now”.

Solo puppetry is puppetry performed by only one person.

The museum is said to be a long-nurtured dream of Học who has identified himself with puppetry for over 30 years.

Nurtured means carefully and lovingly developed over time.

During the early stage of his career, Học used to work as a dance scriptwriter and stage director.

A scriptwriter is someone who writes the words that are used in a performance such as a film or a play.

In 1984, he began working at the Việt Nam Puppetry Theater where his passion for the art blossomed.

If you have a passion for something you do not worry how much time or money you spend on it, you just love doing it so much.

If your passion for something blossoms, it brings it to being at its best.

He pioneered and introduced contemporary solo puppetry in 1992, and so far is the only local pursuer of the art.

A pursuer of an art is someone who follows that art.

His newly-established “museum” has a modest area of 50sq.m, where he is displaying more than 120 puppets.

A modest area is an area that is neither smart nor shabby.

Most of the puppets are shaped after Vietnamese heroes and animals that the artist has crafted and performed with across Việt Nam and in tens of other countries over the past two dozen years.

A dozen means twelve. Two dozen is therefore twenty-four.

The puppets of various sizes and types, in different colours and patterns reflect multiple characteristics or points of view.

Multiple means many.

“Each of my puppet shows must deliver a message relating to a certain view of humanity, the world and life,” Học said, adding that this was the key to attracting audiences and gaining their hearts.

Humanity means the human race.     

 

When recalling past performances, Học remembers 20 years ago when a Korean viewer was moved to tears after watching the show The Boat on a River.

To be moved means to be emotionally affected by something.

The puppet show presents two rival crews fighting on the same boat.

Rival crews are crews that compete against one another in a fierce but friendly way.

The boat staggers, fails to dock and is almost stricken by big waves.

When a boat staggers, it wobbles.

He revealed that occasionally he spent sleepless nights making puppets and writing scripts.

To reveal something means to give out information, especially information that is secret or slightly secret.

“The museum presents a typical type of culture from northern Việt Nam and Văn Học possesses the typical characteristics of northern feudal intellectuals”, Việt wrote.

Possesses means has.

Keeping his love of beautiful Nha Trang City in his heart, Học returned there to spend his retirement and realise his dream of puppetry preservation.

A person’s retirement is the time of his or her life when he or she has stopped work due to age.

Preservation means keeping things the way they are and not let them get worse with age.

“The happy eyes and laughter inspired me a lot,” he said.

If something inspires you, it puts you in a mood that makes you want to go out into the world and do something positive.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

  1. A day of the week when the puppet museum is open free to the public.
  2. Half a dozen.
  3. A place where things are on display, including things from the past.
  4. An animal that features in the names of at least two hand puppets.
  5. A natural landscape feature in Nha Trang  City.

 

 

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© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Saturday; 2. Six; 3.  Museum; 4. Goat; 5. Coast.

 

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