Cải lương theatre through the oral/life history of its performers

by Trinh Kim Nguyen

Institution: University of Hawaii – Manoa
Year: 2016
Keywords: theatre
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068734
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/102019


Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013. Cải lương, or 'reformed theatre', came into being at the turn of the twentieth century when Vietnamese people and customs encountered aspects of Western culture introduced by the French. Among Cải lương's defining characteristics is its openness to many sources, its constant changing appearance and scope, and its diverse interpretation and employment in different eras and places, making its' identity as an artistic form easily identifiable and yet hard to pin down historically. This dissertation begins to tease apart the complex layers of cải lương, and presents a comprehensive overview of the artistic and historical development of cải lương as a theatrical form, with special consideration of the spoken narratives of cải lương performers interviewed. The birth and development of cải lương has always been tightly linked to the many historical changes of Vietnam. Therefore, the Vietnamese history under focus in relationship cải lương is divided into three main periods: 1) the French presence in Vietnam at the start of the early twentieth century (1900-1945); 2) the First Indochina War until the introduction of the open door policy called đối mới (1945-1986); and 3) the post U.S.-Vietnam War era until the early twenty-first century (2000-2010). In doing so, I investigate how historical changes over these periods in Vietnam have influenced the production, performance, and reception of this unique aesthetic form. As equally important is how the lives of those who have been involved in cải lương have been affected. These personal narratives gathered are then used to analyze and interpret the challenges that cải lương is confronted with today. Through the eyes of a small group of highly respected cải lương performers my goal is to better understand the history of cải lương, shed some light on the state of the theatrical form today and to further understand this rich element of Vietnamese culture.