“The closing is not temporary but forever,” said the theatre’s owner Minh Luân, in his recent interview with local media.

“I spent my own money, more than VNĐ500 million (US$21,000), in running the theatre. I lost,” he said.

The theatre offered just three shows in February due to the spread of the virus. Audiences were provided with free facial marks and temperature checks before entering.

“The curtain pulled down this month. I couldn’t pay salary on time for my staff,” said Luân, himself an actor, who has 15 years in the industry.

In December, Luan co-operated People’s Artist and comic actress Hồng Vân, owners of two private drama clubs in the city, to open Chợ Lớn Drama Stage in Thuận Kiều Street, District 5.

Van also worked as the theatre’s art director. She spent a huge money on renting the location and hiring staff. She kept the secret on the amount of money.

Chợ Lớn Drama Stage attracted 15 young actors who are graduates of leading art schools in the city, such as the HCMC University of Theatre & Cinematography and HCMC University of Culture.

The theatre offered three new plays, including Ngẫm Kiều (Song of Kiều), a musical drama on love and women.

The musical is based on the 18th-century Vietnamese epic poem Truyen Kiều (The Tale of Kiều) — which is recognized as one of the country’s top literature works.

It features on Kiều, a talented young woman who is forced to sacrifice herself to save her family, and her love for Từ Hải, leader of a rebel gang.

Vietnamese music and songs are used in the play.

Ngẫm Kiều was first staged in late December. It was staged for several times in January and early February. The tickets were sold out for the next two months.

“We are working on refund policy. Our audiences will soon receive their money,” said Luân.

Luân has also worked with leading private theatres such as IDECAF and 5B Small Theatre to support his actors.

“My theatre’s actors will be relocated to work for other theatres, which are much more experience and have higher financial potential to survive until the COVID-19 outbreak ends,” he said.

Luân began his career as a theatre actor in 2007 after years working in music and fashion.

He has performed in many drama plays, TV shows and movies.

His latest film, Loi Nguyen Luc 0h (The Curse at Midnight ), a TV series on love and betrayal produced by Vinh Long Television, is on THVL1 channel and has attracted audiences in southern provinces.

He decided to challenge himself as a theatre producer because he wants “to help young theatre actors develop their talent on stage instead of performing in music videos and TV game shows”, said Luan.