HCM CITY — A sandy hill with trees and flowers was part of a stunning backdrop of a stage built for a puppet show for children by the HCM City Puppetry Troupe.
|On stage: Puppeteer and stage director Hoang Duan (left) stands with performers from Sweden's Pantomime Theatre. — Photo courtesy of the HTV magazine
More than 200 kids were gathered at the Ben Thanh Theatre one Sunday morning recently, laughing and screaming at their favourite characters.
Though the spotlight was on the puppets, many were equally dazzled by the man behind the show – renowned director Hoang Duan.
Duan, a puppeteer and theatre writer and director, created magic on stage, and had the audience, particularly the young, spellbound during and after the show.
"I have a deep passion for the art of puppetry. After being involved in a new field, drama, I began to understand how knowledge and experience in puppetry helped enhance my talent on stage," he said, referring to his migration to the stage in 2002 when he joined the HCM City Theatre.
"A stage is a channel for dreams. A director should be a mason building his own house," he said after winning last year's prestigious Cu Neo Vang prize for the year's Best Drama Director. It is given annually by the city-based Tuoi Tre Cuoi (The Comic Youth) magazine.
He won for his comedy, Dam Cuoi Thoi @ (Wedding in Modern Style), which examined social problems in an urban setting.
Duan uses both Eastern and Western styles based on his experiences studying at home and abroad.
Born into a farmers' family in the central province of Quang Ngai, Duan dreamed of becoming a theatre artist even as a child.
"I wanted to perform on a stage filled with light, sound and visual effects for children," he once told the HCM City Television magazine.
A graduate of the city's College of Theatre and Arts (now University of Theatre and Cinematography) in 1992 in puppetry, he joined the HCM City Puppetry Troupe as a puppeteer and director.
Creating a dazzling stage for children comes naturally to a man who himself has many child-like qualities.
Thousands of children in the city and from neighbouring provinces have enjoyed his plays based on fairytales such as Chim Sao Than (Magic Grackle) and Bay Quy Va Vien Ngoc Than (Devils and a Magic Pearl).
Most of his works are fables about people and animals that enable the audience to discover the secrets of the world and life.
In 2003 he won a gold medal at the National Puppetry Festival in HCM City for his show Vi Sao Thuong Luong Hoa Rong (Why Dos a Water Snake Changes into a Dragon).
It was about a brave farmer who fights to save his village from a large, cruel reptile.
Duan, in his mid-forties now, is a man of boundless energy who wants to create works for people of all ages: "I'm very interested in directing serious plays for adults. But when I work with children, I feel my soul turning soft and sensitive."
Creating children's songs is another feather in his cap.
"I decided to work in the music scene because I am interested in young Vietnamese songwriters and musicians. They are developing the local music industry, and they need the help of professionals like me.
"I have many things to do, and this happiness in doing keeps me completely alive." — VNS