About the Author: Hai Hoang works with PEPFAR Vietnam.
Following the success of Stereo-man and Destinations of Lives, a 2009 drama produced to increase awareness of and prevent HIV, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continued its support of the National Youth Theater of Vietnam in a new interactive theater project for 2010. A series of short dramas entitled Don't Wait Till Tomorrow were recently developed by actors of the theater's troupe and were performed for free at 10 universities in Hanoi during the months of October and November. Another 10 shows are scheduled for production during December in Ho Chi Minh City.
The core part of the performance is the short drama I Want To Go to School. It is the story of an HIV-positive father who is determined to take his daughter, also living with HIV, to school. After being denied several times, the daughter is finally accepted into a local school. On her first day of class, however, she is stigmatized by the parents of other students -- and even teachers and other school staff. All the pressure falls onto the school principal's shoulders, and the drama ends when the principal withdraws his decision to accept the girl into his school.
The interesting part of the program, though, comes after the curtain falls -- that's when the performers invite all audience members to provide comments and feedback on the drama. They ask the audience to give the story another ending, and one or two members of the audience are invited onto the stage to re-create any part of the play. Together, the actors and audience help the daughter fulfill her dream of going to school -- and, in my opinion, find a much happier ending to the story.
For the first time, the Youth Theater teams includes in their cast a non-professional actor, a man living with HIV. Perhaps more than the story itself, his participation carries the message the actors and actresses seek to convey through the production.