‘State Of Denial,’ a Play About Genocide, to Have U.S. Debut in June

The background photograph is from the Death March during the Armenian genocide in Turkey, 1915 - 18. From Wikimedia Commons
The background photograph is from the Death March during the Armenian genocide in Turkey, 1915 - 18. From Wikimedia Commons

The background photograph is from the Death March during the Armenian genocide in Turkey, 1915 – 18. From Wikimedia Commons

SUNNYVALE, Calif.,— Bay Area Drama Company will stage State of Denial, a play set against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide. The performance will take place at Sunnyvale Theater from June 7 to 15. Each performance will be followed by a TalkBack with the playwright, Rahul Varma.

Odette, a Rwandan-Canadian filmmaker, travels to Turkey to investigate stories of genocide for an upcoming film. When she interviews Sahana, an elderly Muslim woman who has spent her life assisting survivors of the Armenian Genocide, she learns a devastating secret that she resolves to share with the world at any cost, even if it means revealing her own shocking secret.

The Armenian Genocide was carried out during and after World War I. It was implemented in two phases—the wholesale massacre of the able-bodied male population, followed by the deportation of women, children, the old and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished.

The word genocide—the intentional action to destroy a people—was coined by Raphael Lemkin. Lemkin was a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent who barely escaped the Nazi Holocaust himself, but lost 49 relatives to it. After the war, Lemkin emigrated to the US where he campaigned to define and outlaw genocide. In his words “Sovereignty…cannot be conceived as the right to kill millions of people. Lemkin’s lifelong interest in the study and prevention of mass killings was first triggered by the Armenian Genocide.

Most historians and, as of 2019, 31 countries recognize the events of that time in Turkey as genocide. But the Turkish government denies that there was an official campaign to obliterate the Armenian population.

In the US, many political parties and 49 out of 50 states recognize the Armenian Genocide. The US government does not, due to pressure from the Administration which considers Turkey to be a key ally.

Has the world learnt its lesson from the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi Holocaust? Not really. From the Rohingyas being massacred and driven out of Myanmar, to the mass re-education of Uighurs (“cultural genocide”, as Lemkin called it), genocide is alive and thriving. Perhaps it is part of the human condition and can only be caged, not killed.

This is why it is important for us to not forget. Rahul Varma’s State of Denial reminds us that the scourge of genocide—from Turkey to Rwanda—has not yet lifted from the world. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

There are six shows at Sunnyvale Theater between June 7 and June 15. The theater is located at 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale, California. Ticket prices range from $24 – $48. The theater is wheelchair-accessible, and free parking is available. For tickets or more information, visit the website or call 408-458-9375.

Cast:
Odette: Rahel Zeleke Cooper: Ken Boswell
Sinam: Roshni Datta
Kazim: Basab Pradhan
Miriam: Sindu Singh
Zohrab: Anirudh Mohan
Sahana: Anjali Kirloskar
Hakan: Dinesh Rao
Khatra: Tony Ortega
Ismat: Richa Garg
Cleric: Chanpreet Singh
Chorus: Havish Ravipati
Playwright: Rahul Varma
Director: Kimberly Ridgeway

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