Survival drama: private troupes make a new play for audiences

August 01, 2022 - 08:17
Private drama troupes in HCM City are adopting varied survival strategies to face the challenges of dropping audience numbers and ticket sales.
Enduring love: Yêu Là Thoát Tội (Love to be unguilty), produced by HCM City-based Hoàng Yến Drama Club, has been performed more than 100 times since its premiere in Hà Nội in 2018. Photo courtesy of the Hoàng Yến Drama Club

HCM CITY — Private drama troupes in HCM City are adopting varied survival strategies to face the challenges of dropping audience numbers and ticket sales.

The Hoàng Yến Drama Club, which focuses on plays depicting historical events, finds their own way to develop.

The troupe has sought audiences among schools, companies, military and other organisations instead of waiting for the audience to coming to them.

Well-known fashion designer Sĩ Hoàng, co-founder of the troupe, said at a recent seminar on the development of drama troupes in HCM City that their plays would help people learn about the country’s history, so they were suitable to audiences at all ages.

He invited leaders of companies and organisations to watch his plays. “If they like them, they can buy tickets for their members and employees as gifts.”

The club has performed 106 shows of the play Yêu Là Thoát Tội (Love to be Unguilty) since it premiered at the National Drama Festival 2018 in Hà Nội.

It plans to take several favourite plays – Yêu Là Thoát Tội, Khóc Giữa Trời Xanh (Crying under the Blue Sky), Thành Thăng Long Thuở Ấy (Thăng Long Citadel) and Vụ Án “Cậu Trời” (Love and Power) – to Hà Nội soon.

“I continue to seek new relationship with consulate generals and diplomatic agencies and introduce plays about Vietnamese history to international audiences,” Hoàng said.

He said producers should forge good relationships with businesses and agencies to keep their plays on stage for a long time.

Meanwhile, Hoàng Thái Thanh, one of the city’s leading private troupes, has chosen to cut back its shows drastically to maintain operation.

It will offer shows in two seasons – Tết (Lunar New Year) and mid-year, beginning in August, instead of performing every week.

People’s Artist Thành Hội, the troupe’s director, told local media: “It’s a very tough decision, but we have to change to survive.”

For the Tết season, the troupe will introduce one or two plays for three-five months, and for the mid-year season, one play or two-three months. And all the plays will be completely new.

“We will do everything we can to maintain operations and hope it will work,” Hội said.

New leaf: The Hoàng Thái Thanh Drama Troupe will stop performing its favourite plays and prepare a new one that will debut in August. Photo courtesy of Hoàng Thái Thanh Drama Troupe

Hoàng Thái Thanh has been popular for producing many quality plays dealing with a wide range of topics including love, motherhood and social issues.

It has produced 53 plays, including Bông Hồng Cài Áo (The Rose on the Shirt), Tình Yêu Trời Đánh (Love in the First Sight) and Nửa Đời Hương Phấn (The Flavour), that were received very warmly by audiences for years.

“Our actors and production crew have worked hard to deliver quality performances to audiences. But the drop in audience number causes a loss of revenue and we are not able to cover the cost of production,” Hội said.

Ca Lê Hồng, a former headmistress of the HCM City University of Cinematography and Theatre, noted that “in fact, theatre today faces more challenges than in the past.”

Due to the rapid development of streaming services, people like to stay at home and watch entertaining shows on TV and media streaming platforms.

Meanwhile, young people would rather go to cinemas and music concerts than the theatre.

“Life is changing, so we can’t do everything the old way,” Hồng said, adding that the theatre needed people who know how do business to help it develop.

Leave comfort zone

People’s Artist Trần Ngọc Giàu, chairman of the HCM City Theatre Association, said: “The theatre needs more aspiring playwrights who are ready to step out of their comfort zones to present extraordinary scripts reflecting today’s issues to win audience’s hearts.”

He recommended that producers carry out market research to understand audiences’ tastes before producing a new work.

“It will be hard to get audiences back to theatre if they feel no connection with the production,” Giàu said. VNS