As a son of director and Meritorious Artist Hoang Luan, who is one of the people that laid “the first bricks” in the formation of professional puppetry after the National Puppetry Troupe (now Vietnam Puppet Theatre) was established, Nguyen Tien Dung became acquainted with puppets when he was very young.
Dung’s childhood was attached to puppets and traditional performances. He often followed his father to the theatre to watch the artists create plays and puppets. As such, the love for “puppets” was absorbed and nurtured in him.
In 1991, he auditioned for the Army Drama Troupe and studied for drama actor at the Military University of Culture and Arts. Despite devoting seven years to the drama stage, fate brought him back to puppetry and he became an actor at the National Puppet Theatre in 1998.
Nguyen Tien Dung has left an impression with many awards at professional puppetry festivals such as the 2003 National Professional Puppetry Festival, the 2008 International Puppetry Festival, the 2010 International Puppetry Festival, and the 2013 ASEAN Stage Festival.
In addition to the role as an actor, Dung challenged himself as an actor. In 2007, he decided to major in direction at the Hanoi University of Theatre and Cinema. He said the period of working as a puppetry actor gave him a lot of knowledge about controlling puppets such that he could better perform in his role directing the actors.
Working with passion, he developed many creative ideas. He received the best director awards at the International Puppetry Festivals in 2015 and 2018 and the 2019 International Experimental Theatre Festival. He was honored to be awarded the title of People’s Artist in 2015.
People’s Artist Nguyen Tien Dung has been always dedicated to bringing experiments into puppetry stages. He has never been content with the familiar. Enjoying his works, audiences have always been satisfied with his new creations. For example, with the play “Nhip dieu que huong’ (Rhythm of the homeland), domestic and foreign audiences and his colleagues were amazed at the flexible movements of puppets which were made entirely from bamboo and rattan.
In addition, viewers were surprised by the soft and delicate movements of petal-shaped puppets that were made from bamboo, a dry and hard raw material, in the play “Vu dieu hoa quynh” (Dance of Epiphyllum). Few know that these puppets were made from chiffon a few days ago to express the fragility and purity of this flower.
It is still said that one must have courage and dare to take risks in every experiment. However, with People’s Artist Nguyen Tien Dung, it must also be based on careful consideration of solutions.
For example, he had cherished the idea of bringing “Truyen Kieu” (The Tale of Kieu) to the puppetry stage for nearly ten years and then was successful with the play “Than phan nang Kieu” (Kieu’s Fate), which helped him bag the gold medal at the 2019 International Experimental Stage Festival. The play broke the audience’s concerns about the limitations of puppetry language in featuring a classic literary work by creations in the technique of expressing psychology through puppets, emotional transition through the appearance of two important fictional characters, Nguyen Du (a puppet of brush) and Dam Tien (a puppet of the four-chord lute), along with the new music in the play.
Thanks to these experiments, puppetry is no longer just a show for children or tourists but has proven its ability to conquer a wide range of audiences, including fastidious ones.
People’s Artist Nguyen Tien Dung realised that compared to other types of stage arts, puppets have more limitations in expressing emotions, facial expressions and the inner feelings of the characters. However, puppetry possesses many strengths in creating transformations and fantasy as well as naturally conveys a variety of topics. These are also among the factors that have promoted the creativity of the artists.