|Facades: La Hung cannot recall how many times he has stood on the stage and how many tuong (classical drama) "masks" he has made since he fell in love with the art form at the age of eight. — VNS Photos Son Trang
by Son Trang
"Following in one's father's footsteps, in addition to having an inborn talent, is still not enough for pursuing tuong (classical drama) of Hue. To pursue the art, hot and fierce passion is needed," artist La Hung said.
He cannot recall how many times he has stood on the stage and how many tuong masks he has painted on artist's faces ever since he fell in love with the art form at the age of eight.
Born into a family that performed traditional art forms, Hung had the inborn talent of a child who followed in his father's footsteps.
In 1972, when he was just eight, Hung got his first role in the play La Bo and Dieu Thuyen. He joined a club of the Ba Vu Association, and an art association that had several famous traditional artists associated with Hue royal art.
Hung said all 17 children in his family worked with traditional art performances, with several of them being attached to Hue tuong. Hung's father insisted on making his children take up traditional arts. All his money was spent on hiring teachers to help the children practise the arts. Some of them work as actors and actresses, and others as stage directors and dancers.
However, despite pressure, practice and talent, a person could not practise tuong if he or she did not have passion, Hung said.
After the nation's unification, Hung travelled across the country to perform tuong.
"I travel all year round, and don't come home even for the Tet holiday. Every year, when the Lunar New Year comes, the tuong association has three to four shows per day, especially in the coastal areas. With several shows, I have more experience in my work," Hung said.
In the 1990s, Hung performed tuong at the Hue traditional art association, and studied stage direction in Ha Noi at the same time. After graduation, he lectured at the Thua Thien-Hue Culture and Art Vocational School.
After he started performing tuong, Hung began to pay at attention to the different types of facial make-up used in different plays. Then he started making and drawing the masks for himself and other artists.
He has made innumerable masks that are suitable to the Hue tuong style.
"Tuong masks in Hue or in the northern and southern areas have different lines on them depending on their character. They are drawn in the same manner. The person drawing them has to be supple with the lines. The colour of the masks is also important so that each character has a different personality and the artists show their personality via their masks," Hung said.
|Set to take the stage: La Hung has painted many masks that are particular to tuong performed in Hue.
Hung is also considered to be the only person who can draw dozens of masks for the ancient tuong plays in Hue.
Hoang Trong Cuong, deputy director of the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theatre, said Hung had made significant contribution to the Hue tuong art.
Hung was also a master at drawing tuong masks, Cuong said.
In 2013-14, the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theatre prepared a scientific document about Hue tuong art, and Hung participated in the project enthusiastically and contributed several masks. The masks were basic ones so that other mask artists could copy them. The masks drawn by Hung were also displayed by the Hue Relics Preservation Centre in Festival Hue in 2012 and 2014.
During his career, Hung has received several awards for his roles and plays.
In 1993, Hung received a gold medal in a festival competition for performing extracts of tuong and cheo (traditional operetta), and a silver medal for playing the role of Xiu clown in the play Dang Huy Tru in a national festival competition in 1995.
He was awarded the first prize in 2003 and the second prize in 2013 in the national festival competition.
Recently, he successfully prepared the play Crossing Waves, which reaffirmed Viet Nam's sovereignty and territory, and was awarded the excellence prize last year. — VNS