LOS ANGELES—Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest theatre companies in the nation, in partnership with the Armenian Dramatic Artists Alliance (ADAA), presented “Staging the Unstageable: The Esthetics of Dramatizing Atrocity” – an evening of celebrity play-readings and a panel – at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, on Tuesday, April 28, to a sold-out audience in observance of the 100tth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
The evening was conceived by Pier Carlo Talenti, Director of New Play Development for CTG, and ADAA President, Bianca Bagatourian. The scenes were directed by Ovation-winning director, Michael Arabian.
The evening of remembrance, art, and activism featured excerpts from three plays that dramatize in different ways the Armenian Genocide – historically, artistically and politically — the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to purge its territories of its minority Armenian subjects and other non-Turkish people groups.
The plays included were: “15/15” by Leslie Ayvazian, back at CTG since her play “Nine Armenians” played at the Mark Taper in 1997; “Forgotten Bread” by Sevan Kaloustian Greene; and “I Wish to Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide,” by Neil McPherson, artistic director of the Finborough Theatre in London, where the play is currently in its world premiere production.
Oscar-nominated actress, Shohreh Agadashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”), began the evening playing the role of Turkish attorney Fethiye Cetin, putting the underlying tension of the historical context into full dramatic view, followed by Sam Anderson (“Different words for the same thing,” KDT), Leslie Ayvazian (“Nine Armenians,” Mark Taper Forum), Ken Davitian (“The Artist”), Michael Goorjian (“David’s Mother,” Emmy Award), Karen Kondazian (“The Rose Tattoo,” LADCC Award), Christine Kludjian and Hrach Titizian (“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” Taper). Music was provided in intervals on the flute by critically-acclaimed flautist Salpy Kerkonian.
The powerful one-hour performance was followed by a panel after the intermission, with notable guests from the Los Angeles theatre scene including Jose Luis Valenzuela, Julie Marie Myatt, Michael Peretzian, and Greg Hittelman from the Washington DC genocide prevention organization, Enough! The group explored tactics to bring tragedies to the stage and asked whether theater can play a role in averting the next genocide. The discussion was moderated by LA Weekly theater critic, Steven Leigh Morris, and ended with a reception in the lobby.
ADAA also administers the $10,000 William Saroyan Human Rights Playwriting Award, for which the next deadline will be on April 24, 2017.