This chapter gives an insight into leadership in a transition period in Vietnam, through the case of the Tran Huu Trang Cai luong Theater. The Tran Huu Trang Cai luong Theater is a government-owned theater which is directly managed by Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It has a nearly 40-year history and specializes in Cai luong art,1 a traditional Vietnamese theater form. It was founded in 1976 after the American resistance war ended and North and South Vietnam were officially unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The theater became the first national theater specializing in the Cai luong art form in South Vietnam. It was established by the integration of two arts troupes: one Cai luong Troupe, set up during the American resistance war in South Vietnam, and another Cai luong Art Troupe founded in 1964 under the socialist government in North Vietnam. During the period of the centrally planned economy from 1975 to 1985, the

cultural and arts sector in Vietnam was re-conceptualized within the framework of a government subsidy model. Free from financial difficulties and in favorable conditions with little competition, due to the rarity of other entertainment activities, the Tran Huu Trang Cai luong Theater had stability in terms of audience numbers and achieved significant artistic and financial success. A large pool of talented and committed Cai luong artists were available for the theater’s programs. Some of them were well-established artists from the former Sai Gon Regime, and many artists had taken part in the antiFrench and American wars and were committed in their creative efforts for the socialist cause (Tran 1987; Do 2003). During this period, censorship of theatrical arts took place by the government with an expectation that all theatrical productions should focus primarily on political-educational content. It is noted that while new Cai luong plays gained some degree of aesthetic merit in expressing educational and ideological aims, due to the highly politicized approach to theatrical arts, the diversity of classical Cai luong was ignored. Nevertheless, during this period Cai luong art reached its peak of popularity. One of the main reasons for this is that very few

the independence also inspired the public with an optimistic and excited mood and they “went to the theater mainly for an amusement” (Tuan 2006: 8). Moreover, it was observed that a significant number of the audience were the families of liberation soldiers who had come to settle in Ho Chi Minh City from the rural areas, bringing with them a passion for the Cai luong art form (interview with a Cai luong artist, Ho Chi Minh City, April 9, 2009).