Local artists hope to promote Vietnamese drama in US

TN News

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A group of Ho Chi Minh City thespians have left for the United States to perform before Vietnamese-American audiences in California, promising to pave the way for Vietnamese performers in countries with Vietnamese communities.

The artists will make up two-thirds of the cast for Ky nghe lay Tay (The Industry of Marrying Europeans) to be held at the Saigon Performing Arts Center in Little Saigon, a section of Los Angeles, known for its Vietnamese population.

Two performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 16.

The comedy was first performed in Vietnam in 2008 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of Vu Trong Phung (1912-1939), an influential writer and journalist sometimes referred to as the Balzac of Vietnam for his style of sarcastic humor. The play was adapted from his work of the same name published in 1934, which depicts female-run brothels designed for Western guests. The madams have multiple husbands, who are mostly Westerners, and thus thirst for a kind, educated Vietnamese man.

Ten traveling artists from Vietnam, including Lan Phuong, Binh Minh, Minh Luan and Luong The Thanh, are mostly young aspiring talents who have performed in local theaters and on Vietnamese television. The two other cast members, Minh Nhi and Linh Nga, are now based in the US.

Hong Van, who manages the Phu Nhuan Theater which created the play, and is one of the play's directors, said bringing it to the US marks a major success, as it will be the first one of its kind put together by Vietnamese artists, Nguoi Lao Dong reported.

Previous shows were either shorter, included the participation of fewer Vietnamese artists, or both.

She said Vietnamese people in the US have been waiting to enjoy a full-length Vietnamese drama, but few theaters have shown interest.

Van plays the mother who arranges for her own daughter to serve as a prostitute for Westerners.

Tu Trinh, who has performed four times in the US in events which were organized by Americans, said "Vietnamese drama is being well-received in the US as it is new."

"Full dramas will be accepted at big theaters. The tickets would be a little expensive but still sell well."

Theater tickets in the US are now set around US$35 40 apiece, with prime seats costing between $80 and 100.

Most of the Vietnamese dramas performed in the US to date have also been adaptations from classic Vietnamese literature and have drawn affluent, educated middle-aged audiences.

Many overseas Vietnamese would love to go to a Vietnamese show just to see artists from the homeland, the artists said.

Stage actor and director Tran Ngoc Giau said that in the past the US government was reluctant to grant visas to foreign artists. "Thus now we have a chance to open a new market for Vietnamese theaters."

Van said smaller productions by Vietnamese artists at US theaters were "experiments" to test the market before promoting a full-length work like Ky nghe lay Tay.

"If this one is successful, it will be much easier for the expansion of Ho Chi Minh City theaters in the US as well as many countries," Van told Nguoi Lao Dong.

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