Ardavazt’s Progeny

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

We’re on the cusp of Armenian Culture Month, October.  This is based on when the translation of the bible into Armenian is honored with a church holiday “Tarkmanchatz” (“Translators'”).  While it seems pathetic that a church holiday has given rise to this, cultural manifestations are important and anything that instigates more should not be frowned upon.

I’m fond of the theatre and always try to go to Armenian plays, since time and other constraints prevent me from getting to other shows.  I miss some, and often because I’m not aware of them.  I wish I was on more lists which target Armenian theatre goers.  It would be great to see more of what Armenian theatre has to offer some 21 centuries King Ardavazt II, Dikran the Great’s son, became known as the first Armenian playwright.

Currently, we have three theatrical performances going on or imminent in the Los Angeles area.  The high Armenian population density enables the production of far more plays than in most of our other North American communities since it costs a respectable sum of money to put on a play.  Still, there could be even more.  And, with enough support, the troupes and plays emanating from LA could then travel to smaller communities who suffer from a dearth of this wonderful aspect of culture.

Vahe Berberian is once again on stage, alone, with the latest of his ever-popular one-man shows.  This time, it is titled “Ooremn” (Therefore).  I haven’t missed any of them and will be going three weeks from now. It is playing on Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm through October 29 (except October 21) at the Glen Arden Club in Glendale.

Hamazkayin’s regional theatre unit is sponsoring a caste composed of newcomers to the stage who will be performing Jacques Hagopian’s “Groonguh Guh Gancheh” (The Crane Calls).  Appealing to Armenians’ sensibilities regarding that bird, the plot unfolds in 1947 Australia.  Two families, one Armenian – Ardzroonee, and the other not – Jackson, are neighbors.  The Armenian daughter and the non-Armenian son fall in love.  As the play progresses, we learn that the “non-Armenian” actually is.  Not only that, but the father is a noted poet who in post-Genocide despair decided to dispense with his Armenianness.  And thereby hangs a tale whose relevance to today’s identity issues is patently obvious.  Don’t miss it.  Performances are on November 4, 5, 10, and 12 at the new AGBU Vache and Tamar Manoukian Performing Arts Center in Pasadena.

Vahik Pirhamzei is presenting “Pogha Petq – Money Needed!”  Billed as “A thought-provoking tragedy-comedy that takes place in a church during its renovation an interesting connection between 4 individuals with completely different characters & beliefs”.  It is playing only once, on Sunday, October 8, 2017, 7pm at Stars on Brand Glendale, CA.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to miss this one.  It’s too bad there aren’t more performances.  At least I found out about this play ahead of time.  Usually, I learn of his plays AFTER they have exited the stage.

On the horizon is Aram Kouyoumjian’s “49 States” which should hit the stage about a year from now.  It delves into the California secession movement triggered by Donald Trump’s election.  It promises to be both serious and funny, looking at the issue through the prism of two friends who are on opposite sides of the political fence.  Indeed, how could it be anything else?  Further in the future is Aram’s “Constantinople” which tackles a topic woefully unfamiliar to most Armenians.  Inspired by Lerna Ekmekcioglu’s book, “Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey”, the play will imagine what Armenian life in immediate post-Genocide Bolis must have been like.  I’m really looking forward to this one.  In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Aram on the fundraising end of his productions.

One unfortunate phenomenon is our community’s extreme preference for comedy.  This drives our directors to produce plays from that genre, almost exclusively.  That’s unhealthy and disables us from looking at important issues in our national and community life.  Try one of our more serious plays some time.  You might surprise yourself and like it!

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2 Comments

  1. Arsen Margossian said:

    Very interesting, Garen. If you consider Berberian’s latest gig as theatrical art, I have to disagree.
    But I am curious to know how many theatre directors and actors/actresses we have here in SoCal?Who is acting full-time and who is amateur/part-timer? Is running a theatre co. a profitable endeavor? Who are our playwrights? Who is translating non-Armenian plays? Why comedy is more accepted and welcome vs serious ones? It would be really an eye-opener to look into these questions, not only here, but in every major diaspora community and try to make a comparison with what is happening in our homeland.
    I read recently about commemoration events for Hamazkayin’s George Sarkissian, who if I am not mistaken, was a leading figure in diaspora theatre from the fifties to early seventies, based in Lebanon but touring all over the world. Who replaced him? Khedeshian, Fazlian, Satamian, Dadoyan, Berberian and unfortunately, the list is very limited.
    I think a discussion forum would be of great relevance to analyze the state of theatre art, especially in our area, and in general.

  2. King Daniel said:

    Garen Yegparian,
    Your anti-Christian attitude permeates throughout all your ”articles”. What is your problem? What has the Church, your Church, done to you that you hate it so much? Very disappointing to hear this from an Armenian.
    You say that ”While it seems pathetic that a church holiday has given rise to this, cultural manifestations are important and anything that instigates more should not be frowned upon.” Just because it seems pathetic to you does not mean that the community at large feels like you do. Quite the contrary. The Christian faith is at the centre of Armenian culture and what it means to be an Armenian. Deal with it. If you disagree, then you should reassess why you even bother writing on this website to begin with.
    As a reminder, the Armenian Apostolic Church created the Armenian alphabet as a means to prevent our assimilation into the Greek and Persian nations at our sides. Its goal has always been twofold, to teach the faith and preserve the Armenian nation. Without it, we would have continued practicing barbaric rituals like sacrificing beautiful and fine Armenian women to the fertility goddess. Otherwise, in the Church’s absence we would have become Muslims and no different that Turks today.
    So spare us you personal problem with the Church and write something relevant next time.

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