Culture Culture

15/06/2018 - 17:25

Digitalization of Hue Theatrical Drama

The Hue Monuments Conservation Center’s two-year project “Developing a Database for Hue Theatrical Drama” will help to digitally store the information and documents related to Hue theatrical drama.

The image of Emperor Tu Duc in the theatrical drama “The Innermost Feelings of a King”

Theatrical drama is one of theatrical art heritages of Vietnam. During the Nguyen Dynasty, this art form reached its peak and became the “national drama”. Yet, the art of theatrical drama has become less popular in the contemporary society since the Nguyen Dynasty “fulfilled their historic mission”.

While older generations have now considered theatrical drama as the nostalgia for their childhood and the old days, younger people show almost no interest in it because they make little sense of this traditional opera.

In the efforts to preserve the national heritage and the elite essence of the ancestors, Hue Monuments Conservation Center have fulfilled several tasks related to Hue theatrical drama over years. Many theatrical dramas and extracts such as Son Hau, How Nguyet Co Transforms into a Fox and the Flame of Hong Son, have been restored and re-enacted. Among these, many extracts have been developed into entertainment products to serve visitors at the Royal Theatre and other places in the complex of Hue heritage.

Hue Monuments Conservation Center has also conducted a lot of research studies in Hue theatrical drama. Several studies later are used as “textbooks” for in-service training programs and performances of Hue theatrical drama at The Theatre of Hue Traditional and Royal Art (an organization under the authority of Hue Monuments Conservation Center).

Characters in the play “Ngheu, So, Oc and Hen”

Several recent research studies of Hue theatrical drama notwithstanding, all the documents are kept in a rambling manner. There is a necessity for a database of this form of art in the situation in which the number of Hue theatrical drama artists has gradually decreased. The later the database is developed, the larger risks of loss Hue theatrical drama may face. Therefore, the project of database for Hue theatrical drama aims to store and systemize all the current documents as well as continue filling “the void”.

According to Mrs. Le Mai Phuong, Head of the Research and Art Office (The Theatre of Hue Traditional and Royal Art), the void in Hue theatrical drama is the insufficient in-depth studies that further investigate the recent “preliminary findings”, the language, dancing techniques, costumes, masks, and especially scripts.

“Currently, the ancient scripts of Hue theatrical drama are stored here and there around the country, both by the museums and by families. We do realize this but we are not able to go to all the regions to collect them. Moreover, some families that keep the scripts may not be cooperative. Once they do not want to sell the scripts, they will certainly not allow us to copy either. We do look forward to the cooperation from organizations and individuals who are keeping and preserving the valuable records of the ancient scripts of Hue theatrical drama,” said Mai Phuong.

Nguyen The, a member of Thua Thien Hue Association of Folk Arts, thinks that the preservation and restoration of Hue theatrical drama in the original is no easy task. Yet, the preservation and restoration should continue to be a matter of interests since the art of Hue theatrical drama is part of Hue culture and a valuable cultural heritage of Vietnam. We should further research and learn more about what is related to Hue theatrical drama that has been preserved in other places than Hue.

He added that there have not been opportunities to restore ancient plays once famous in Hue. Thus, it is necessary to collect and transcribe the scripts written in ancient Nom characters scattering here and there in order to continue researching and promoting this traditional art form of the Ancient Capital of Hue and introduce it to audience home and abroad.

Story and photos:  Dong Van