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!