As an effort to have a full picture about The Southern Gem, Cultura Fish had the opportunity to meet and interview with the director of The Hát Bội Theatre of Hồ Chí Minh city, mister Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ, he was also the art director of the program.

(Đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt của bài viết tại đây)

After the opening night of The Southern Gem (Original title: Sắc - ấn ngọc Nam phương) have received a positive reception from the public, especially from the youth. This is proven to be a good sign for the art of hát bội in the contemporary scene and might as well in the future. As an effort to have a full picture about The Southern Gem, Cultura Fish had the opportunity to meet and interview with the director of The Hát Bội Theatre of Hồ Chí Minh city, mister Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ, he was also the art director of the program.

Cultura Fish: Hello Mr. (Võ Hồ Hoàng) Vũ, the production for The Southern Gem is known to be a great investment and effort from the Hát bội Theatre of Hồ Chí Minh city in 2022. Can you share with us the motivations that made you produce the show?

Mr. Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ: The Southern Gem is a part of a program series launched by the Hát bội Theatre of HCM city in recent years. To be honest, The Southern Gem has had a plan for the last 2 years. However, due to the situation of COVID-19, it affected the production process and pushed back the plan more than how we intended. Not only The Southern Gem, the other events from the program series also aimed to promote hát bội to the public. Before then, the Theatre has produced many other plays and projects, for example like “Sanh vi tướng, tử vi thần” (Translate: Born as a general, die as a god), activities that introduce hát bội to the public, or how Cultura Fish has organised Hát bội 101 project with the Hát bội Theatre to invite international audience to hát bội. The Southern Gem is one of our many efforts to share the traditional art of hát bội to a wider audience. With this in mind, hopefully these projects would help Viet audience, and later international visitors to learn more about the traditional culture of Vietnam.

The director of The Hát Bội Theatre of Hồ Chí Minh city, mister Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ, he was also the art director of the program “The Southern gem”

Cultura Fish: Can you share more with us about the behind the scene of making the show? From planning out ideas, production, to the opening night of The Southern Gem? Was there much difficulties or opportunities throughout the process?

Mr. Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ: The project of The Southern Gem was under the direction of the Culture & Sports Department of HCMC in adapting the public demand for the city residents. Moreover, it would be beneficial to bring the production to encourage tourists to join the local culture in HCMC. From this mission, the Theatre has drafted out ideas, development plans, with the goal of making the traditional art of hát bội to be accessible to the local and international audience. And so the idea has made the Theatre to work creatively in order to bring out different product proposals, while also keeping the traditional characteristics of hát bội within the product. However, we also had to find a new direction to integrate with other art forms like dancing, contemporary music to make it more entertaining and appealing to the audience. Not to undermine the effort, we couldn’t truly keep the core essence of hát bội through this program, although our main goal was to introduce hát bội to the audience as a rare gem. Siding with other art forms, the art of hát bội will definitely shine through. So after watching the show, the audience can still see why hát bội reserves a special place in our Vietnamese traditions. With that being said, when integrating hát bội with other art forms, the play encountered several difficulties. Hence, why the preparations and rehearsal timeframe got extended for such reasons. The artful purpose of this show is to make this integration to be harmonious, this has made the creative crew tirelessly working through many reviews, balancing between different elements. That was the most difficult thing in producing The Southern Gem. When the play was performed out to the public, there were still several things that didn’t quite hit the mark, later on our creative crew will then gather round again to discuss this, so that we can further make the play to become more captivating for the audience.

Cultura Fish: What are your assessments/expectations about The Southern Gem? Or its general impact to the art of hát bội, or to the cultural lives, tourism, in the future?

Mr. Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ: As we initially discussed, this play was produced by our Theatre in order to promote hát bội to the public, to help the audience to familiarise with hát bội. From that general awareness, then people can have the motivation to go in depth about hát bội. In all honesty, a hát bội play that can bring the audience a range of emotions and depth has to be from the traditional classics. Only those classics of hát bội can reflect all the beauty, all the drama of the art form. The Southern Gem is only a presentation of what’s most distinctive about hát bội, not truly reflective of the detailed essence of hát bội techniques. Of course, we do hope through this play the audience will know more about hát bội, under the aspect of easy-watching and captivating. from there, the audience may study further to find the beauty and good of hát bội in the original and classical plays of hát bội. With this play, our Theatre also hopes to serve the audience demographic that are visitors to HCMC, since there have been several provinces in the country that have allocated locations to perform traditional art to cater for international tourists, although they tend to be lacklustre. In HCMC, it’s not really known amongst tourists about where to experience the traditional art of Vietnam. The motivation of this play is to encourage and endorse a cultural spot for tourists to come learn about the traditional art of Vietnam, including hát bội.

Cultura Fish: From the last five years, there have been many projects, activities, communication programs that revitalised and promoted the art of hát bội. For the majority of them, all were organised by young people. Can you share some thoughts about the movement? And would any of that dynamic atmosphere affect the ideas of making The Southern Gem?

Mr. Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ: When it comes to hát bội, some people will think the main audience will be your aunties and uncles, the older people in general, and the youth and younger audience rarely a part of the demographic. However, ever since 2017, there have been a lot of activities that took hát bội as a theme, especially when these events were shared and supported by the youth. Gradually, the programs from the Theatre attracted a younger audience. Such programs also go back into the school environment for the kids, where they were receptive to it. But to keep it real, in order to conserve and innovate traditional art that is hát bội, the effort from us Theatre, or the uncles and aunties, or the older audience are not enough. Hát bội in today’s age needs much more help and support from the younger generation who are equipped with much better social opportunities, and the versatility with information, and international connections. The support of the youth will not only help the traditional art of Vietnam to thrive domestically, but also globally too. From these projects, the Theatre clearly sees that when young people come and join with, then hát bội will have more chances to flourish.

Cultura Fish has sustained and developed project “Hát bội 101” into different formats such as communication campaigns on Facebook

Cultura Fish:  According to you, would promoting hát bội under a digital platform like ICHCAP-UNESCO can be considered a positive signal for hát bội to exist in this modern era?

Mr. Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ: First of all, I’d like to send my biggest thanks to ICHCAP-UNESCO and Cultura Fish with your care and effort in promoting Vietnamese traditional art to the international audience. From a management perspective,  I am glad to  see this happen. Because this is also something that me, personally and the Theatre have wanted to work on for a very long time, but our resources are limited and access to information and outreach are not as good. Through the effort of the younger generation, the reputation of Southern hát bội is widely promoted. It is something that us traditional culture divisions need to pay attention to more often. Vietnam has so many performance acts that have such charm to attract the international audience, however, the limiting access to information didn’t make way for it to happen. This reality leads to the issue of tourists having difficulty in finding Vietnamese traditional culture. And so, such projects on conserving cultures like such can help the traditional art of Vietnam to quickly pass down to the local public and international audience. Vice versa, through such projects, international tourists can seek to Vietnam and find out more about the cultural scenes which are vibrant and foundational that are not limited to hát bội.

Mr.Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ (in red shirt) with  Hiếu Văn Ngư – Cultura Fish team during archival project “Hát Bội 101” (10/2021)

Cultura Fish:  Through the play The Southern Gem that was produced by the Hát bội Theatre of HCMC and the background stories that was shared by the director, Culture Fish feels like hát bội – a traditional performance art genre that’s worth conserving, has constantly evolved and sustained thanks to the tireless effort of the creative crew, as well as the audience, however young or old. It seems like it’s an intertwined relationship that shares the love and passion towards traditional art. Indeed, it is a good sign that should be celebrated and appreciated in our current context. We’d like to send our gratitude to Mister Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ for sharing your honest thoughts today.

(Previous reading: “A MOMENT FOR HÁT BỘI”). 


This article (“INTERVIEW: BEHIND THE THEATRE’S CURTAINS”) was co-produced by Hiếu Văn Ngư – Cultura Fish and ICHCAP. Please give proper citation and do not repost by any type.

Author: Vương Hoài Lâm

Translator (Vietnamese – English): Hà Hoàng Minh Trang

Graphic: Lục Nhi 


Read the Vietnamese version of this article at 

To learn more about “Hát Bội 101” project: 

To read other articles in this series: 


ICHCAP-UNESCO: An international network and information centre for intangible cultural heritage of the Asia-Pacific region under UNESCO.