Project for 100 plays ends in farce

The HCMC Stages Association held a conference to discuss a project to stage 100 popular international and national plays on the city’s stages February 23, but it ended in acrimony as participants believed the project would fail. 

Le Duy Hanh (center) expresses his ideas at the conference (Photo: SGGP)
Le Duy Hanh, Chairman of the HCMC Stages Association, did not hesitate to say the project completely failed to attract directors.
 “I highly appreciate the aim of this project but I think our current infrastructure for performing hardly meets the requirements for the project. The most important thing we should do now is to survey the real conditions of local stages. In addition, we must not fix the budget for bringing a play on stage but consider the cost that every stage suggests for their selected play.”
The idea about ‘the project losing its attraction to the theatres’ received sympathy from other participants at the conference.
Khanh Hoang, director of the HCMC Drama Theatre, said, “Some plays among the 100 selected plays in the project would have raised a lot of interest from audiences in the past. But, if we brought them on stage now maybe those plays would not be able to attract audiences to the theatre. I’m even worried that some plays would not sell any tickets.”
The director of the Ho Chi Minh City ‘Hat Boi’ Theatre, Anh Kiet, suggested that the project leaders reconsider the popularity of some plays on the list since “how can the audiences know some plays when even the directors don’t know them.”
Kiet also asked about decisions concerning plays that would do very well at theatres, as plays can only be put on once.
The project also met with some objections from the director of the IDECAF Stage, Huynh Anh Tuan, and the director of Sai Gon Drama Theatre, Phuoc Sang.
Tuan suggested the project organizers must understand what the theatres lack and what the audiences lack before choosing the solution.
Tuan also agreed with the rejection of fixed budgets of VND100 million ($5,710) for every play by Hoang.
Hoang explained that, “Making costumes for classical plays is expensive. Sometimes the fixed budget cannot cover the costume costs, so how can the theatres pay the performers?”
There is also a worry that current actors and actresses will find it difficult to accomplish their roles as expected, the HCMC Theatre’s director also believed most of the stages in the city barely satisfy all of the requirements by the directors.
According to Tuan, VND100 million cannot cover the costs of 80 performances of each play.  

Tuan said, “We easily figured out that a performance only received an allowance of a little more than VND1 million ($57). This allowance can only cover some small fees but hardly cover managing fees, like salaries for staff, actors and actresses.
“I can give an example of one of our plays, ‘Hon Truong Ba, da hang thit’ (‘Truong Ba's soul in butcher's body). We already paid hundreds of millions Vietnam Dong to direct the play and gather a popular cast, but the tickets for this play were only sold out till the 33rd session. The following session only saw half of the theatre full.
“In my opinion, I recommend an increase in the budget for every play, up to VND200 million ($11,430) to keep the project feasible. I still remember that we used to discuss this project previously with the expected allowance for every play of VND400 million ($22,850), so why reduce it now to VND100 million?” Tuan asked.
Meanwhile, Phuoc Sang discussed a different problem. He talked about the final aim of the project, to preserve or develop plays.
“If the project is to preserve plays, we just simply need to find a good cast and prepare some good facilities to record the plays and preserve the tapes as reference materials. If the project is to develop the plays, the situation is absolutely different. I can say that the aim is barely achieved.
“I think we should better consider renovating the infrastructure for performing first before thinking of ways to bring the plays alive since our current infrastructure is too poor.”

By Do Khanh – Translated by Truong Son

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