Lemkin’s Message Echo’s Through New York City

NEW YORK–In an intimate theatre in New York City, sat a full house of listeners who were not there that evening to hear a comedy, but instead confront the dark history of the past and present, and our responsibility to stopping genocide. The play Lemkin’s House-written by Catherine Filloux, directed by Jean Randich- revolves around Raphael Lemkin, who after coining the word genocide in 1943 still shows how he is tormented in the afterlife because genocide still continues. Immediately following the play a panel discussion on the Armenian Genocide was held reported the Armenian National Committee of New York. The play ran from September 13 to October 8, presented by the Body Politic Theater and Vital Theatre Company, having an added feature of a panel discussion following the play on most evenings. From discussions of the psychology behind genocide, to reports on the refugees and children of Darfur, each panelist brought on a unique discussion of the different aspects revolving around public awareness of genocide. The October 7 panel, organized by the ANC of NY, was on the Armenian Genocide. Introduced by ANC ER board member, Doug Geogerian, speakers Professor Henry Theriault, Professor of Philosophy at Worcester State College, and Karine Birazian, Eastern Region Executive Director of the ANC were on the panel. With Filloux moderating the discussion, Birazian and Theriault brought up both activism and philosophical aspects of genocide in conjunction with the Armenian Genocide and other genocides the world has faced and is facing today. Questions from the audience commenting on the play itself, breaking through Turkey’s wall of denial, and overcoming our safe havens in America and taking action to stop genocide involved deep thoughts and conversation from all that took part. Birazian, who presented a piece she had written after having the opportunity to read the play prior to seeing it concluded: "though this pattern is repeated over and over again, we cannot go back to 1915, 1932, 1942,1975, 1991, 1994, 1998 or 2004, but we can go to October 8, 2006 and all the days ahead while man’still breaths and hearts still beat and fulfill the these words never again by taking action. Victim number 5,000,401 is waiting for us to stand up and do something." Theriault commented: "Lemkin’s House is a very special artwork in intertwining creative complexity and brilliance with a clear ethical stand. Among other artistic innovations, is the challenge that we appreciate the play not simply for its creative genius, but as a call to join Lemkin in his struggle against genocide." The playwright, Catherine Filloux, has written four plays on just the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. Having brought out from these experiences the research of Raphael Lemkin, allowed the creation of Lemkin’s House. Reaching out to all audiences, especially focusing on using the arts as an educational piece, Filloux commented: "I would like to work with [the Armenian National Committee] to find a place for LEMKIN’S HOUSE in the schools. Students could work on scenes from the play, or write interpretive pieces about the play, or take a section of the play and expand on the historical context. I am so impressed by your work to place the subject of "genocide" in the curriculum. I would like to join you in that work. I am also moved by the heart and depth I felt on the panel on Saturday night and from those in the audience. This gives me hope," after speaking with the panelists. Lemkin’s House receiving the 2006 PeaceWriting Award from Omni Center for Peace, was produced by the 78th Street Theatre Lab in New York City this past February and performed in the Bosnian language in 2006 in Sarajevo, Bosnia. "We are grateful to Catherine Filloux for giving us this opportunity to work with the ANC to organize this panel. We would like to fulfill the vow to Catherine and work with her to educate others through artistic means," commented ANC of NY chair Tony Vartanian. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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