City private theatre troupes confront hard times

Update: March, 18/2014 - 09:28

HCM CITY  (VNS) — Faced with financial difficulties, experienced private theatre troupes in HCM City are struggling, according to industry insiders.

Speaking at a meeting between the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and private troupes' owners and managers last week, People's Artist Hong Van of the Hong Van Drama Troupe and Phu Nhuan Drama Club, said: "Although we have many skilled actors, we are still having difficulties cementing our positions in the theatre business."

"While state-owned troupes receive money from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's budget every year, private troupes have no financial support."

"We are at the mercy of the economic market, and this limits our business and our cultural development," she said.

Instead of investing in serious plays, drama troupes like Hong Van and Phu Nhuan tend to make a living from comedies. The Phu Nhuan and Hong Van attach special importance to making plays in two or three acts that present comic stories for audiences.

Their competitors, Hoang Thai Thanh and IDECAF, prefer to produce variety shows for children.

Theatre director Ai Nhu of Hoang Thai Thanh said: "Because we do not have enough money, we cannot produce quality plays that meet audiences' high demand."

In spite of the difficulties, the private troupes have been pioneers in the industry. They have invested large sums in making serious plays although they haven't profited from them. The IDECAF invested VND1 billion (US$46,000) in the production a series of historic plays Bi Mat Vuon Le Chi (The Secret of Le Chi Garden) and Ngan Nam Tinh Su (Thousand-Year-Old Love Story) in 2011 and 2012, but they both failed to make profits.

Not many urban residents like this type of play because they're too serious – young people seem to prefer lighter entertainment.

"We know what a good play is but we're not able to choose the plays we want," said Van, adding that to strike the right balance between serious drama and light comedy in a play is not an easy task for her colleagues.

Van's two troupes have a large staff of dozens of directors, cameramen, actors and stage workers, so the managing board's first duty is to pay their staff their monthly salaries on time. At the meeting, Van asked local authorities to reduce enterprise tax and value added tax (VAT) on private drama troupes.

The government has issued a series of policies to help private theatre troupes in recent years but they are still subject to 28 per cent enterprise tax and 10 per cent VAT.

"We are not a business, so paying tax is a burden," said Van.

Vo Trong Nam, deputy director of the department, promised to consider solutions that enable private troupes to develop their business. — VNS