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A Dream in Hanoi Home


Vietnam America Theater Exchange (VATE)

The bilingual, bicultural production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that is the subject of the documentary film A DREAM IN HANOI was created under the auspices of the Vietnam America Theater Exchange (VATE). VATE is the first reciprocal theater exchange project between Vietnam and the United States. Founded in 1998 by American scholar and educator Lorelle Browning, VATE builds on the recent normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations by helping to expand U.S.–Vietnamese educational and artistic contact. Browning writes: “... we believe that art, and especially theater, is our most universal language—one that is absolutely essential to human communication. Since theater’s essence is profoundly collaborative, it requires us, as artists, educators and audiences, to discover and negotiate a common bond, a place where we fully experience our human connections and accept and transcend our differences.”

In September 1998, with funding from the Ford Foundation, VATE organized and sponsored a six-week tour of Vietnam’s Central Dramatic Company in the United States. On the tour, Vietnamese artists performed Luu Quang Vu’s Truong Ba’s Soul in the Butcher’s Skin at colleges and universities on the West Coast and presented workshops on classic Vietnamese theater to several thousand American educators, students and to the general public. In the fall of 2000, with renewed funding from the Ford Foundation, Compaq, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and the U.S. State Department, VATE organized bilingual, bicultural productions of Tennessee Williams’ A Glass Menagerie and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Vietnam. The productions featured the actors and artistic staff of the Central Dramatic Company of Hanoi and Artists Repertory Theater of Portland, Oregon.

Central Dramatic Company of Vietnam (Nha Hat Kich Viet Nam)

Established in 1952, the company is dedicated to developing a national identity and an aesthetic for modern Vietnamese drama. Founded by the distinguished poet The Lu and playwright Nguyen Xuan Khoa, the company initially performed drama, dance and song in the popular Cheo tradition. In the mid-1950’s it concentrated on serious dramatic works that combined elements from the traditional Vietnamese Tuong style with the modern influences of Stanislavski, Brecht and Artaud. The theater supported the nationalist side in the war with France in the 1950s.

In 1955, over 200 actors and thousands of audience members joined for a production of The Victory of Dien Bien Phu. In the following decade, the Central Dramatic Company thrived, giving more than 100 performances a year throughout the country. During the war with the United States (from 1965 to1975) the company staged plays for North Vietnamese troops on improvised stages on battlefields throughout the country. In the 1990s, as the Vietnamese government gradually encouraged ties with the West, the company has mounted many new Vietnamese plays, as well as productions of Moliere’s The Miser and Shakespeare’s King Lear. It has also participated in several international theater festivals. In 1998, the company toured the West Coast of the United States under the auspices of the Vietnam America Theater Exchange. Performances were given at California State Universities at Fullerton and Los Angeles, Oregon state universities at Ashland, Eugene and Portland, and the University of Washington.