Not to Be Forgotten

By Claudia Peschiutta

Glendale News-Press

When they ordered the extermination of Polish Jews 60 years ago–Nazis wondered if anyone could remember the mass killings of the Armenia’s by Turks in 1915.

Lilly Thomassian is doing her best to make sure people remember it well.

The voices of hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s exiled by the Turkish government 85 years ago–then sent on a torturous forced march into the deserts of present-day Syria–will be heard in "Let the Rocks speak," a play written by the 47 year-old Glendale resident.

The National Theater Institute will present a free staged reading of the play Saturday at Crescenta Valley High School.

"The Armenian Genocide has been forgotten and has to be talked about more," Thomassian said. "The forced march hasn’t stopped. It will stop the day everybody knows about it."

Between 1915 and 1923–1.5 million Armenia’s in the Ottoman Turkish empire died.

Thomassian–a piano teacher–said she has always wanted to write about the Genocide. An article she read last year profiling six survivors provided the inspiration she needed.

"Let the Rocks Speak," which takes place in New York in 1925–follows a day in the life of a widower and his two daughters who survived the Genocide. The youngest daughter–preparing to celebrate her 16th birthday–has two wishes: To learn how to dance and to remember the horror she lived through as a young girl. By the end of the day–both wishes are fulfilled.

"It was hard emotionally–to write the play," Thomassian said. "Sometimes–I had to stop because it was too overwhelming."

Catherine Yesayan–who is helping Thomassian promote the staged reading–breaks into tears discussing the drama.

"I have seen plays–but never such a powerful play," she said. "I just couldn’t hold my tears."

Thomassian said she is still fine-tuning the script and is likely to continue making changes even after Saturday’s reading.

"When you hear your words and they come alive in front of you–it’s different," she said.

After years of writing poems and short stories for her own enjoyment–Thomassian–who came to the US from Iran in 1985–decided about four years ago to take a creative writing course at Glendale Community College–mainly to improve her English skills.

"The professor told me to forget about short stories and poems and to write plays," she said. "It was like a revelation. The first page of dialogue I wrote…I knew I had found a way of expressing myself."

She has written other plays but–Thomassian said–this latest is her most complete.

"Everybody says it’s very powerful," she said.

That power–Thomassian hopes–will teach her audience a lesson: "To live with each other–to be tolerant."

The Staged reading of "Let the Rocks Speak" will take place on Saturday Feb. 26–at 7:30 p.m. immediately following a reception planned for 7 p.m at the Crescental Valley High School auditorium–at 4400 Ramsdell Ave.. From more more information contact 818.502.1627.

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