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Puppeteer shortage threatens survival of tradition in Vietnam

Publication Date : 01-04-2014


The lack of puppeteers is threatening the survival of traditional puppetry, according to the chairman of Vietnam Theatre Artists' Association, Le Tien Tho.

"Puppetry art is very distinct," Tho said at a seminar held recently to promote the traditional art form.

"Those who are committed to puppetry should be trained with a view to meet the demand for professional puppeteers."

"Puppets are controlled by artists who can't use their words. The story is gestured through the actions of the puppets," Tho said.

"If artists trained in other art forms perform with puppets they will require training and practice to control the puppet confidently," he said.

Director Ngo Quynh Giang agreed with Tho's opinion adding that puppetry was facing a shortage of workers, including script-editors, directors, painters and puppeteers.

"There is no college for training people in puppetry," she said.

In response, art troupes have partnered with the Cinematography and Theatre College to host training courses for those wanting to join the unique art form. However, almost all the seminar participants said the training would not meet demand for professional puppeteers.

The shortage has also stymied creativity and innovation, according to Nguyen Hoang Tuan, director of Thang Long Puppetry Theatre.

"Many foreign visitors have told me that they see the same shows at the Thang Long Theatre. They want to see new shows not the same ones over and over," said Tuan.

Vietnamese water puppetry became world famous in the 1980s leading to a spike in the number of professional puppetry theatres and troupes in the country.

"The professionalisation took about two decades but there has been a decrease in the number of artists staying to perform on the puppetry stage, and there are few artists remaining to specialise in the traditional art form", said Ngo Thanh Thuy, director of Vietnam Puppetry Theatre.

According to Thuy, a traditional art form would normally develop strongly in the domestic market before going abroad to compete. "Over the past years, the Vietnamese puppetry has not developed in this way," she said.

"Setting up an art college for puppetry is very necessary. It will be the right way to preserve the tradition, aiming to sustainably develop the unique art form," said Thuy.

The seminar was held alongside World Theatre Day on March 27. The Vietnam Theatre Artists Association has been a member of the International Theatre Institute since 2004.


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