Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mandalay's stages for cultural shows in short supply

Much has been written about Myanmar’s recent popularity as a tourist destination and the resulting shortage of accommodation, but some travel guides are also complaining that there are not enough venues around the country where foreign visitors can see traditional cultural shows.

“Myanmar does not have many theatres where visitors can be entertained by the country’s traditional culture, except for tiny stages located in some hotels and restaurants,” said Ko Kyaw Min Htike, a French-speaking tour guide.

“For foreign visitors who want to enjoy Myanmar traditional culture such as marionette shows, we need to encourage more theatres to be erected.”

He said that even Mandalay, which is considered the centre of traditional Bamar culture in the country, has only two theatres: Daw Ma Ma Naing’s Puppet Theatre and Min Thar Theatre.

“The other major tourist destination such as Yangon and Bagan also have only a few theatres. There’s a real need to increase the number of venues where people can be entertained by our traditional dances,” he said, adding that those venues that already exist are too small to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors.

Marionette performer and theatre owner Daw Ma Ma Naing said the increasing demand for cultural shows will lead to the opening of more theatres.

“At the moment there are only a few venues, but I think more dance theatres will appear in the future in reaction to the influx of visitors as the country continues to open its doors,” she said.

“But there are many factors to consider in building marionette theatres, including sufficient space, money and the need for enough professionals who are dedicated to marionette theatre and traditional dance.”

Daw Ma Ma Naing said she has travelled to more than 20 countries, where investments have been made in theatres so that people can enjoy their own traditional arts and also see shows by performers visiting from other countries.

“Financial investment is also important because it allows performers who cherish their traditions to continue showcasing their art. But we can’t make huge profits even if there is a lot of capital investment,” she said.

“But I also expect that new theatres will benefit if visitors who are interested in Myanmar’s marionette shows keep pouring into the country.”

She said her theatre enjoyed a large number of visitors in November, during which her group performed three shows a day.

“Generally, we offer marionette shows at night because the musicians who accompany the performances are free then. But can also do daytime shows upon request,” she said.

But Ko Win Zaw Oo, a tour guide from the Myanmar Tourism Association, said he doubted whether there was much need for more theatres.

“Some visitors don’t go to the existing theatres because they can see traditional dances at hotels and restaurants. They think the entrance fees of K8000 to K10,000 charged by the theatres are too expensive,” he said.

Translated by Zar Zar Soe