Establishing a young audience and helping them enjoy the theatrical arts is essential for nurturing their souls and the art form itself, experts have said.
The Việt Nam Theatre Artists Association has recently been carrying out a project to build and develop a new generation of audience for the theatre.
Fostering an interest among young people around the country while they are still at school will be the focus, according to People’s Artist Trịnh Thúy Mùi, chairwoman of the association.
“This project is quite different from previous ones conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Department of Performing Arts,” said Mùi.
“The aim here is to introduce traditional theatrical genres to students and also to teach them about performing.”
“This project is hoped to bring theatrical arts closer to children and help them see the beauty of the wide array of genres.”
Art troupes and professional artists would perform at schools, she added.
In the first phase, the project would be conducted on a trial basis from junior to high schools in major cities such as Hà Nội, HCM City, and Đà Nẵng.
The Hà Nội Drama Theatre’s Những Mầm Xanh (Green Buds) club is currently experimenting with performances for children at Vinschool in Times City.
The pilot has received a positive response from the children as well as their parents and sparked a love for the theatre among many.
The club began the pilot last September with the participation of artists from the Hà Nội Drama Theatre.
“Children are given the chance to meet their favourite artists, who will help them nurture a love of the arts,” said Nguyễn Trung Hiếu, the theatre’s director.
“They will become more confident, more mature, and more active.”
Last month, the children were able to visit the theatre at 42 Tràng Tiền Street in Hà Nội and perform a little on stage.
It is hoped that the model will be expanded to other schools around Hà Nội and in other cities.
The project aims to create an audience for each theatrical genre, but artists and managers need to be more active in producing quality performances that appeal to younger audiences, according to Mùi.
Associate Professor Dr Trần Trí Trắc said the aesthetic tastes of artists and young audiences were yet to find a common voice.
“The audience is one of the basic elements of theatrical arts, joining the director, script writer, and actors, but has received too little attention for a long while,” Trắc said.
“If we want to revive the theatre, first of all we need to attract a younger audience by educating them at school about the art form.”
People’s Artist Trần Ngọc Giàu, president of the HCM City Theatre Association, added that today’s young audiences had many options in terms of entertainment.
“It is necessary to instil in the young a love of the theatre,” Giàu said.
The Việt Nam Youth Theatre has been performing for children around the country for many years and has also set up theatre clubs, where members are given priority to preview new productions.
Members also offer their thoughts to help the theatre produce performances that the public will enjoy.
Shows by the Việt Nam Circus Federation have regularly attracted a young audience but remained active in creating new productions, such as Nàng Tiên Cá (The Little Mermaid), Cây Gậy Thần (Magic Stick), and Hà Nội Của Những Giấc Mơ (Hà Nội of Dreams), which combine different art genres.
Over the years, the Việt Nam Tuồng Theatre has also regularly visited schools to introduce and perform tuồng (classical opera) for a young audience, and young and old can enjoy chèo (traditional opera) shows every Friday night at the Việt Nam Chèo Theatre.
Nguyễn Thị Hòa from Giảng Võ Ward in Ba Đình District is a regular at theatres in Hà Nội.
“I often take my kids to watch shows,” she said. “Some have changed to appeal to a wider audience.”
Many years ago, Huỳnh Anh Tuấn, director of the Idecaf Theatre in HCM City, was concerned about shrinking audience numbers. Young people didn’t seem to find any enjoyment in the theatre, despite it retaining its appeal among adults.
The theatre needs to attract a younger audience and producers need to stage productions that will attract them, according to Tuấn.
Since debuting in 1997, the Idecaf Theatre has been one of only a few to produce shows specifically for children, such as Ngày Xửa Ngày Xưa (Once Upon a Time), which proved popular after premiering in 2000.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has launched a campaign to support existing theatres, but it is not considered a sustainable effort that builds a young audience base.
This is, indeed, the goal of the Việt Nam Theatre Artists Association’s project.
Not only seminars and roundtables will take place within the project but also other activities such as a children’s script writing contest and a theatre festival, according to Mùi.
“One of the reasons for creating a young audience is to ensure the longevity of theatrical arts,” Mùi said. “The best way to approach young people needs to be identified and measures taken to ensure success.” VNS