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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Saigon-based hat boi troupe celebrates 30th anniversary in Hue

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Ngoc Khanh, a troupe performing hat boi, a genre of Vietnamese traditional drama, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary by presenting a special two-night show at Thanh Binh Tu Duong (Thanh Binh Ancestral Worship Hall) in Hue City in central Vietnam.

Hat boi, a.k.a. hat bo or hat tuong, has a long history as part of Vietnam’s traditional performing arts. According to some authors, the origin of this art dates back to five centuries ago first in the north before going down south as Vietnam expanded her territories. Hat boi is distinctive from other arts in that it is highly symbolic, from gestures of actors and actresses to their costumes. But the most outstanding features of hat boi is apparently face painting. Look at the face of a performer of hat boi on the stage and you’ll know immediately his/her characters and social status.

Once a favorite genre of art of Vietnamese, hat boi is now facing the same grim fate of many other traditional genres of theatrical arts as young viewers show little or no interest in it.

The venue of the performances, Thanh Binh Tu Duong, which was built in 1825, is a temple worshipping the founding fathers of this genre of art in Hue and in the central region. It is also the oldest temple which still exists for that purpose. The performances of Ngoc Khanh troupe could therefore be considered a “return to the roots,” or a “pilgrimage” of this troupe.

The two-night show performed by more than 50 artists was really a big treat to the audience of Hue.

Artists from Ngoc Khanh troupe praying at Thanh Binh Ancestral Worship Hall before their show
Artists dressing up for their show
Performers have to spend about 30 minutes to one hour on painting their faces
Although key hat boi performers attending Ngoc Khanh troupe’s tour of Hue are senior, Minh Khanh, a little boy who practices hat boi, joins them. He wants to become an artist in the future
A performer praying for good luck before the performance
The colorful stage of hat boi
Merited artist Ngoc Khanh (L), who is founder of Ngoc Khanh troupe, performs on stage
Local audiences enjoy the show…
… many of them are elderly residents in Hue
A young audience livestreaming the show via his phone
The show finishes successfully to the great joy of Hue viewers

By Hieu Truong and staff writers

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