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Puppetry fest faces uncertain future

Update: September, 12/2012 - 09:28

 

Strings attached: Artists from Thailand's Hun Chang Forn troupe perform during the International Puppetry Festival. — VNS Photo Minh Duc
HA NOI (VNS) — While Vietnamese puppet plays attract large audience and won many prizes from the third International Puppetry Festival, artists are still worried about the future of the marionettes.

When the festival closed on Monday, three gold medals were distributed. They went to Giai Dieu Ky Uc (Melody of Memoir) produced by Hai Phong Puppetry Theatre, Linh Thieng Hai Tieng Dong Bao (Solemn Compatriotism) by Thang Long Puppetry Theatre, and Rahwana's Death by Wagang Golek Ajen Theatre from Indonesia.

Many artists expressed pessimism about the future of the puppet plays because they lack venues, funding and audiences, according to Mai Quoc Quyen, chief of the Dance and Art Theatre from the central province of Ha Tinh.

"We invested much money and effort in arranging a puppet play for the festival but when the festival's over, we don't know where we can perform the play because we don't have our own stage," he said.

Tran Van Phung, director of the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak's Cultural Centre, shared the same concern.

"While puppetry attracts many international audiences, it's ignored in the country," he said. "In the Central Highlands, we are enthusiastic to participate in the festival, but when the newly directed play finished its role at the festival, we had to put the marionettes in storage."

"We tried to perform the play for free in Dak Lak Province to lure audiences but this is not a good way to run the troupe," he said. "Sometimes we are invited to perform at special occasions but the income from that is insignificant."

The Thang Long Puppetry Theatre in Ha Noi is known as a place where many international visitors come to enjoy water puppetry, but due to its small area, it only offers water puppetry. Although puppet plays arranged by the theatre graced the stage of the International Puppetry Festival, the artists don't expect that these plays will be performed for the public after the festival.

This year, Vietnamese artists experimented with incorporating different arts into puppetry such as tuong (classical drama), nha nhac (court music) and gongs, said Nguyen Thanh Nhan, head of the festival's organising board.

"The artists are respected by the guest troupes, while many Vietnamese people in remote areas haven't had a chance to enjoy puppetry."

Puppeteers from other countries encouraged the Vietnamese puppet artists to be more optimistic.

"We took dozens of years to find a loyal audience who loves our shadow puppetry," said Mazal Amir from the Far Theatre from Israel. "I think Vietnamese artists shouldn't be too pessimistic. Be patient and you will eventually convince audiences that puppetry is a valuable art."

"I was impressed by Vietnamese puppet plays, which reflect the country's traditional cultural identity," she said. — VNS

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