People’s Artist Tran Bang: Artists should keep faith in traditional stage

NDO – Prof, People’s Artist Tran Bang, who has worked as a director of Cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera) for more than 50 years, granted an interview with a Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper reporter, sharing about the direction for the development traditional stage in the context that young audiences are no longer interested in because they have many choices for entertainment.


Q: How do you assess the current situation of the traditional stage performances?

A: The judgments about the recession of Tuong (classical drama) and Cheo (traditional opera) have appeared quite a lot on the mass media. There are many reasons for this recession, such as the change of modern audiences’ tastes and the development of more attractive forms of entertainment. However in my opinion, the most basic reason is the subjectiveness of art makers. Artists themselves have lost their faith in the ancient Tuong and Cheo. They no longer believe in the vitality of these art forms and have come to think that the ancient Tuong and Cheo performances belong to the past. Therefore, they find ways to create modern forms, even cooperating with foreign partners. The play created jointly by the Vietnam Tuong Theatre and French Mask Theatre is a typical example.

Modern plays like that showed that the artists no longer believe the value and beauty of traditional stage. They lost their faith in the art form they themselves are pursuing. How many ancient Tuong and Cheo plays are there in the drama lists of the theatres? The Vietnam Tuong Theatre has seriously recreated several ancient plays, such as Dao Tam Xuan, Trieu Dinh Long and Son Hau. However, the performing skills of contemporary artists cannot be compared with the previous generations.

Q: What should be done to develop Tuong and Cheo art forms?

A: Even artists should be improving their knowledge so that they keep the faith in the profession as well as see the beauty and uniqueness of these traditional art forms. It can be affirmed that the performing arts is the uniqueness that should be preserved of Tuong and Cheo. The scripts of ancient plays are only anecdotes and spines, or a syllabus for performers to improvise. Therefore, it is necessary to pay more attention to performing arts of traditional stage.

Actors and actresses must be adept in performing skills so that they can express the auras of the characters that they played as well as the plays’ spirit through the high skills. For example, the anger is expressed through the move of boat-like shoes or the tremble of ten fingers; meanwhile, the sobbing lament is showed by the way to tackle the intonation in a statement or the ligature in singing. Today, the expression of actors and actresses are inferior to artists of previous generations. As watching ancient plays, it can be seen that the contemporary artists are only imitating the performance of the old artisans superficially.

It is essential to rectify many things in preservation of types of traditional stage. There are almost no ancient scripts in art troupes and theatres. Relevant agencies should also pay much attention to research work because there is no one who is knowledgeable about performing arts to do research and draw experience.

Q: How do you think about the requirement of applying technologies in serving for stage?

A: It is crucial to keep a proper acting environment for each type of traditional stage. I remember that at a stage festival in 1982 in Bulgaria, Japanese art troupe brought their stage which was full of equipment, including wooden floor and paths to serve their own performance. A unique stage is very essential to create an exceptional performing environment. In Hanoi, Hong Ha Theatre is used for Tuong art form and Kim Ma Theatre is for Cheo; however, managers have built normal stages for rent.

Artists and managers should keep in mind that for Tuong and Cheo art forms, the performance of artists is the focus. The decoration of stage, music and lights are used to serve the artists, not occupying the central position of performing art. The overuse of technologies will reduce the value of traditional art forms.

Thank you very much for the interview!

People’s Artist Tran Bang (Photo: