Artist enthusiastic to promote Vietnam’s puppetry arts to the world
“For such a long time, international friends have only spoken about water puppetry while they are talking about Vietnam’s arts of puppetry. However, I want to let them know that our country’s has a wealth of puppetry arts which are also wonderful.”
This is a sharing from Meritorious Artist Nguyen Ho Thuy Tien, who has a great passion for and creativity in puppetry. She is the first female in Vietnam who created her own solo puppet show.
Meritorious Artist Nguyen Ho Thuy Tien. (Photo: thanglongwaterpuppet.org)
Solo puppet show
For those lucky enough to enjoy a show staged by Tien, there is an interesting experience to see eye-catching marionettes performing the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson’s rhythmic dances, elegantly moving to the beat of drums, and gracefully performing a beautiful song.
Although the entire show is staged by one artist only, performances are harmoniously connected to each other during the show with the support of light and music. The outcome is the fruit of a hardworking and immensely skilled puppeteer.
Born in a family with a rich tradition of arts, her father is a puppetry director and her mother is a puppeteer, Thuy Tien has developed a fondness for this art genre at a very young age. Despite graduating from the teaching faculty, she then decided to embark on a career in puppetry. Tien is currently a performer in the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre with 25-years of working experience.
In 2008, she was among seven participants from five countries to be selected to attend a training course on Asian arts held in the Republic of Korea by UNESCO’s International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People.
When the course concluded, her puppetry script stood out from the others and was chosen for performance at the graduation ceremony. The appraisal of the audiences and fellow professionals fuelled her courage to develop a solo puppetry show in Vietnam.
She then started to make marionettes by herself. As she has support during her solo puppetry, the baggage for the show should be lightweight and neat. Therefore, instead of making traditional wooden puppets, Tien tried making her marionettes from Styrofoam, which not only allowed the puppets to be lightweight but also made it easier for her to create the forms of the puppets.
Meritorious Artist Nguyen Ho Thuy Tien performs a solo show called "Vietnam in Puppets" as part of the World Puppet Carnival at National Museum on September 4, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Source: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images AsiaPac)
However, the materials posed a difficulty for the artist to control the puppets on the stage. To fix the problem, Tien add pieces of lead to weigh down the Styrofoam marionettes. She also made puppets from bamboo and rattan.
"While performing abroad, many international audiences were surprised to see that my puppets were made from such materials", Tien said.
By choosing to develop string puppetry, Tien spent a lot of time making the marionettes and designing the control bars for them. I had to make four or five prototypes before completing a marionette, Tien said.
Tien has also invested much time in developing her skills, writing scripts, and choosing musical themes and lighting for her solo shows to ensure that her performances can blend the modernity and traditional features in a harmonious fashion.
Brings Vietnam’s puppetry arts to the world
Most recently, her ‘Vietnam in Puppets’ solo performance, which is composed of several sections of performance, using various skills and forms of puppetry, such as rod puppets, marionettes, hand puppets, among others, helped her to earn the Best Female Artist at the International Theatre Festival for Young Audiences, held in Romania in October 2017.
Thuy Tien controls her marionettes during a solo performance. (Photo: Nguyen Ho Thuy Tien)
Earlier, the show also brought Tien accolades at the International Puppetry Festivals in Indonesia in 2013 and in Thailand in 2014.
Tien now possesses a collection of dozens of self-made string and rod marionettes, which she considers a heritage to be handed down to her beloved son, who has been inspired with a passionate love for puppetry.
Although puppetry has not attracted a large audience in Vietnam, Tien believes that the arts will grab the attention of the youth in the near future and establish itself as a way to effectively promote Vietnam’s traditional culture to the world./.