Hanoi artists are experiencing a tough time amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) that makes them facing no stage, no show, and no audiences. They have to try so hard to overcome the difficult period together. Luckily, some Hanoi theater stages are now lighting again.

Stage lights are on

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater has recently reopened. Photo: Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

As one of the capital’s leading units in performing arts, in the past two years, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater virtually stopped all live performances due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, the theater made a number of online broadcasts to ensure pandemic prevention and control.

But the theater has officially returned to live performances.

The evening of a weekend in late February marked the first night after two years the theater reopened and welcomed crowds back. That night’s show featured various unique and fascinating performances of traditional water puppetry – an art that is loved by national and international audiences for many years.

At the same time, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was also speeding up the preparations for the program in commemoration of the 120th Birth Anniversary of Revolutionary Nguyen Phong Sac (February 23, 2022).

Other stage art companies have also reopened their theaters. In the hustle and bustle of rehearsals these days, artists of Vietnam Circus Federation and Vietnam National Cai luong Theatre still remember the enthusiasm and anxiousness before the performance of Mother Goddess of Heaven earlier this month, the first after two years.

 The play titled “The Village Pond” is now being performed at Hanoi Youth Theater. Photo: Hanoi Youth Theater

People’s Artist Tong Toan Thang, Deputy Director of Vietnam Circus Federation told The Hanoi Times: “After the night show, not only the audience but the artists were also very excited. They are now able to meet their spectators in-person after a long time without performing in front of an audience.”

According to him, this is a positive sign of the recovery of stage art after the pandemic. What needs to be done now is to embark on the next tasks, revive the artists’ spirits, and repair the economic damage they were inflicted in the past two years.

The feeling of joy and excitement also came to Le Ngoc Theater’s artists. Despite their hectic rehearsal schedule since early February, the fact that Hanoi reopens cinemas, as well as venues for cultural and art performances from February 10, has energized many of them.

“We are so happy to be able to perform under the spotlight again after such a long hiatus. I cried when seeing the theater hall being filled up again” a female artist of Le Ngoc Theater told The Hanoi Times.

From February 21 to 25, the unit has performed for five nights at the Hanoi Opera House with three plays: “Herostratus – The Case of a Temple Burner”, “Being a King”, and “Mother’s Tears”. All these plays will be on stage in Ho Chi Minh City from March 13 to 23, with two shows per day on average, when company tours Ho Chi Minh city.

Audiences are the source of motivation

 A scene from the play titled “Thien Menh” (Heaven’s will), Vietnam National Drama Theater. Photo: Minh Khanh

The revival did not come naturally, especially in the context of the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic. It is possible thanks to the careful preparation, especially ensuring pandemic prevention and control, such as by sanitizing the entire theaters and limiting the number of tickets per show by the art companies.

For example, during the pandemic, the Youth Theater of Vietnam staged the play “You Are Not My Father” by playwright Luu Quang Vu. Successfully staged by many theaters, this theatrical piece has been re-arranged with the brand of Youth Theater, which represents the voice of young people and the modern youth’s way of thinking.

According to Deputy Head of the Youth Theater to Dao Duy Anh, facing the pandemic situation in Hanoi, even in the midst of the pandemic, the theater made efforts to bring theatrical productions to the audience.

“It is expected that in the coming time, “You Are Not My Father” will be widely performed. However, tickets will be sold at only 30% of the seating capacity, while audiences will be required to have received two vaccine doses and keep their distance during the play,” he told The Hanoi Times.

Youth Theater of Vietnam staged the play “You Are Not My Father” by playwright Luu Quang Vu. Photo: Jenna Duong

“Although we can’t see their smiles as the spectators wear the masks, their gazes, applause and praise are still the greatest source of motivation and happiness for us stage artists”, he added.

Obviously, the capital’s theatrical events are re-emerging with renewed vigor.  

 “The restart is very important, but because art, artists, and audiences need to be safe, we need the cooperation of state agencies to help theaters reduce the economic pressure, in the context of growing concern that the cost of Covid-19 testing may exceed ticket prices”.

Along with the hopeful signs from art units after the Lunar New Year, Vietnam Stage Artists Association also kicked off the 5th International Experimental Theater Festival – Hanoi 2022.

The festival is for national and international art units. This is also an art playground for professionals, honoring new and experimental discoveries in the creative process of playwrights, directors, actors, theater musicians, scenic designers, as well as sound and lighting technicians.