NEW YORK–A dramatic adaptation of William Saroyan’s powerful autobiographical novel “Papa You’re Crazy” will be presented at the William Saroyan Centenary Festival in the framework of High Fest International Theatre Festival in Yerevan, Armenia, on October 8. The production is adapted for the stage and directed by award-winning actress Nora Armani and is performed by Bartlomiej Soroczynski.
Armani’s adaptation of the work centers on the two main characters of the play, namely the author and his son. However, Ms. Armani has approached the staging and adaptation of the work as “primarily literature” and “not a documentary on the Saroyans. It is also the story of ‘any father and any son’ as Saroyan himself mentions in the novel at some point,” said Armani during a recent interview.
Armani’s other adaptation works include: “Nannto Nannto,” a performance piece for cello and spoken work adapted from world poetry and literature dealing with travel and love, and “Sojourn at Ararat” that she co-created and performed with Gerald Papasian based on Armenian poetry and literature. Both plays have garnered international awards and accolades. More recently, in New York, she adapted and directed a play called “Khawaga Story” about Egyptian Jews in exile from a book by Liliane Dammond.
Nora Armani is well known to Armenian and International audiences through her performances as an actor on stage and screen. Some of the films she has starred and appeared in have been seen in major international festivals, on screens worldwide, on Egyptian TV and BBC TV. She has also appeared in a number of French films as well as Egyptian TV Series. Her Armenian films include: “Deadline in Seven Days” by Ara Ernjakian, “Last Station” by Haroutyoun Khatchatryan and “Labyrinth” by Mikayel Dolatyan.
After a fourteen-year absence from Armenia due to relocations and performances and films in France, USA and the UK, Ms. Armani visited Armenia again in August of 2007. “Meetings with wonderful people and culturally aware officials reopened the door for more collaborations on the artistic level once again,” she said with her characteristic smile. “I am thrilled to be back and participating in this most important moment of celebrating William Saroyan’s 100th birthday, especially that I share his birth-day: August 31,” she added.
The actor chosen to portray the role of the son through whose eyes we see everything, is Bartlomiej Sorczynski, a native of Poland and a Canadian citizen. Like Armani he has lived and worked in many countries and toured half the world with several acclaimed productions including Cirque %u092loize with which he has performed since 2002. He recently appeared in a film by Philippe Muyl “Magique” starring Marie Gillain. Currently Soroczynski is a member of the Compagnie Irina Brook (daughter of the legendary Peter Brook) and will be touring with the company in the recently created production “Somewhere La Mancha.” The production, with Gerald Papasian in the lead role of Sancho Panza, will be performed at the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris during April 2009.
The production visuals of “Papa You’re Crazy” are created and designed by Ared Spendjian who comes from the world of advertising and promotion and is a creative Director for ads and TV spots in New York’s highly demanding advertising world.
“Papa You’re Crazy” will be performed in English in the William Saroyan Centenary Festival in the Framework of High Fest International Festival in Yerevan, Armenia. The performance takes place at the H. Tumanyan State Puppet Theatre, at 6 p.m. on October 8, Address: 4 Sayat-Nova Ave., Yerevan, Phone: ( 374 10) 563244, 563243.
For information about High Fest, directions, booking of tickets and other pertinent details in Yerevan contact:
Why “Papa You’re Crazy”?
William Saroyan’s beautiful plays are well known worldwide and performed frequently. However, his novels have been somewhat forgotten and put aside for some time now. Most are out of print and difficult to come by. In fact, it is astounding that there were no reprints of his novels and short stories published internationally on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.
I chose to adapt “Papa You’re Crazy” for the stage in an attempt to help bring it to our attention once again. It is a very personal novel. Saroyan wrote it when his son Aram, to whom he has dedicated the work, was only 10 years old. But the novel could easily have been written by the latter many years later as a fully-grown man remembering his father. This specificity gives the work a prophetic value.
Although autobiographical in many ways, as it is recounting a certain period in Saroyan’s life, the novel is primarily a literary work of fiction and should be perceived as such.
That is the spirit in which I have adapted and staged it: as literature, and not a documentary on the Saroyans. It is the story of the relationship between a writer and his growing son; between any father and his son; a continuation of generations. It is about the passing of the torch of life, of personal character, of meaning and understanding, of a profession, and most of all of a passion.
It may be true to most of us that we end up becoming our parents as much as that may be what we attempt to avoid and run away from our entire lives. Those of us capable of accepting and embracing this reality are able to grab the best in their pedigree and adding to it their own, grow further. While those who struggle against it, end up wasting a lot of positive energy that could have been otherwise channeled much more productively. The same may hold true for all kinds of human belonging: cultural, ethnic, geographic and other–We are whom (and where) we come from–plus some!
I hope this beautiful work can help us understand better our “fathers” and ourselves. “Papa You’re Crazy” can be considered the best legacy William Saroyan could have left. I personally feel a special affinity with Saroyan and his work. Maybe it is partly because I share his birthday too: August 31!