Exploring Literature Through Performing Arts for Students

Performing literature is a powerful tool for teaching students about literature and history. It offers an engaging way to increase their understanding and interest in the subject.


Do Ngoc Ha, a student at Le Quy Don Secondary School in Hanoi, expressed her enthusiasm after watching the play Canh dieu lang Vu Dai (The Kite of Vu Dai Village), which was performed at her school this week.

The play, adapted from the renowned short story Chi Pheo by Vietnamese writer Nam Cao, has provided Ha and other students with a fresh perspective on the literary work. “My understanding and appreciation of the short story have greatly improved,” said Ngoc Ha.

The incorporation of theatrical elements into literary works has had a positive impact on students like Ngoc Ha, making it easier for them to develop an appreciation and love for literature.

Building on the initial success of this approach, policies are being developed to replicate this model in other schools.

  A scene in the cheo play Thang Bom. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Cheo Theater

The project of incorporating famous literary works into theater as a didactic method in Hanoi was approved by the Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee in late 2022.

By leveraging the strengths of theatrical art, the project aims to deepen students’ appreciation of literature and identify and nurture potential actors.

A total of 51 plays based on 70 student works will be adapted by theaters under the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. These plays will be staged nearly 2,000 times in high schools.

The city government has mandated that the plays be highly educational and suitable for teenagers, with attendance being voluntary and free of charge.

The project serves to stimulate the cultural industry’s growth in the capital and foster a love for literature and performing arts among students.

Breathing new life into the capital’s stage

The project has received an enthusiastic response from theaters.

The Hanoi Drama Theater is currently rehearsing the play Spirit of Gymnastics, based on a short story by Nguyen Cong Hoan. The play is being written and directed by People’s Artist Trung Hieu.

Since April last year, the Hanoi Cheo Theater has been monthly stagingCanh dieu lang Vu Dai, which is an adaptation of Chi Pheo by writer Nam Cao, in schools.

Meanwhile, the Thang Long Puppet Theater is preparing two fairy tale plays, Tam Cam and Thach Sanh, for students. The Hanoi Cai Luong Theater and the Hanoi Circus and Variety Arts Theater will also perform plays based on national literary treasures as part of the educational program.

 Performance at school as a theatricalization of famous literary works in the general education program in Hanoi.

Famous Vietnamese literary works are being adapted to theater with school-specific modifications. These adaptations offer different perspectives to teachers and students.

Trung Hieu, Director of the Hanoi Drama Theater, believes that the project makes learning literature more engaging for students.

“This initiative aims to cultivate a theater audience and discover new theatrical talents in the capital,” Trung Hieu said.

Thu Huyen, Deputy Director of the Hanoi Cheo Theater, supports the idea of introducing traditional theater to young audiences as a means of preserving the art form.

Nguyen Gia Thuy, a student at Dich Vong Secondary School in Cau Giay District, shared her immersive experience of watching the play De Men (The Cricket) by Le Ngoc Theater. The vibrant animal world depicted in the play allowed her to visualize the literary characters she had studied.

“I am eagerly looking forward to more stage adaptations of our textbooks,” she said.

In the past, students in literature classes were passive learners who simply absorbed knowledge from their teachers. However, with the incorporation of theatrical elements into literary works, students now have a different understanding of these works compared to what they learn in class.

Pham Ha Thanh, a literature teacher at Le Quy Don High School, emphasizes that students are attracted to the theatricalization of literary works because it sparks their curiosity about the author and helps them envision the context in which the works were created.

“Students have become more enthusiastic and interested in literature classes,” Thanh said.

Literature teachers widely believe that adapting literary works into theatrical performances contributes to a better understanding of the works. To enhance this experience, they suggest involving artists from professional theaters.

Replicating this teaching method would enhance the quality of literature education.