Love, Music And History Converge In ‘Komitas’

Komitas

World Premiere Play  Opens July 13 At Atwater Village Theatre

“Komitas,” a World Premiere play in English, is above all else, a love story: The love of Komitas for his darling Margaret, his passion for the music that permeated his life, his deep and abiding love for the Armenian people. This is not a history book. It is a story of romance, adventure, music, culture, the world stage, and of love and freedom that cannot be suppressed. It is the story of the ultimate victory of Komitas.

Playwright/producer Lilly Thomassian studied at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Her full-length play The Interrogation, was a finalist in the 2001 Ashland New Plays Festival and the 2003 Senachai Festival in Chicago. The Interrogation  was chosen to be part of Company of Angeles’ Festival of New Plays; “Vision of Dystopia”. She is probably best known for her play, Let the Rocks Speak, which won the 2001 Catawba College Peterson Award, as well as Honorable Mention in the Plays for the 21st Century Contest (Playwrights Theater, Texas), and Finalist in the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Competition. Let the Rocks Speak was produced by ShapeShifter Productions in 2003 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. NADIA, a play about Armenians in Iraq won the 2008 William Saroyan Prize for Playwriting and was a finalist in the Stage Left Theater festival in Chicago.

Komitas Vardabet (1869-1935) is a hero to Armenians everywhere. To the world at large, he is an important figure in world music. Born in Kutahya, Ottoman Empire, his first language was Turkish. Orphaned at 11, he was looked after by his grandmother until selected at 16 for priesthood in the Armenian Church, becoming at monk at 24. His early interest in music was encouraged by the Church, and after he established a monastery choir, he was sent to Berlin, where he attained a Doctorate in Musicology. He collected and published some 3000 Armenian folk songs and dances. He contributed to the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, arranging traditional music cleansed of foreign influences. In addition, he is renowned for his original orchestral compositions. He is revered by Armenians today as the man who rescued Armenian musical culture from oblivion.

Although his accomplishments make him historically worthy, it’s the legends surrounding his private life that make him a fascinating figure today. Although ordained a celibate priest, he had a beautiful female musical protégé, a gifted Armenian opera singer who performed in Paris, named Margaret. Artistic soul mates, the two spent so much time together that people began to talk. Did they or didn’t they?

Captured and sent to captivity by the Turks during the Genocidal campaign of 1915, his life is saved through the intervention of international cultural and diplomatic figures, including a U.S. ambassador. But Komitas has been severely traumatized by the horrors he experienced at the hands of the Turks, and spends the next years of his life at a mental institution in Paris. Can the tender ministrations of his beloved Margaret restore him to the man he was?

Pavel Cerny directs “Komitas.” Cerny is an alumnus of UCLA and received a Master’s degree from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He has literally dozens of credits as theatre director in Los Angeles alone, including his own plays, among them the recent “Three Sisters or Perestroika” and “Circus Welt”;  “A Lovely Place for a Picnic”; ““BELZ!” He’s also directed for the stage in larger, major theatres in Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia. His television work includes a series of films for KCET featuring the late actor Baruch Lumet, and Cerny wrote numerous TV shows and films for Czech State Television. He wrote and directed a short dramatic film starring Henry Fonda, “Long Journey Home.” Cerny has been an NEA fellow and an AFI grantee.

The cast of “Komitas” includes Jesse Einstein, Gina Manziello, Arthur Parian, Joe Hulser, Katie Hilliard, Vano Kimmel, Takui Akopyan, Christopher Basile and Melvin Weiss.

Choreographer: Anna Djanbazian. Movement choreographer: Fernando Belo. Production stage manager:  Shawna Voragen. Scenic design: Oshin Thomassian. Costumes: Maro Parian. Lighting design: Henrik Mansourian.

“Komitas.” A World Premiere play with songs

Written by Lilly Thomassian. Directed by Pavel Cerny. Musical direction by Ara Dabandjian. Produced by Armenian Cultural Movement.

This is a guest production at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90030.

Preview Thursday, July 12 at 8 p.m. Opens Friday, July 13, 2012 at 8 p.m., runs through Sunday, August 19. Show times: Thurs.- Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 6 p.m.
Admission: $25. Students with I.D. and seniors over 60, $20. Except for Gala Opening on July 13, $50. Preview: $10. For reservations call (818) 551-1234 or online at itsmyseat.com/komitas.

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