BY LISA KIRAZIAN
Sunday night, August 19, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA) held its second annual Celebrity Gala at Stars Palace in Glendale. It was a night of glamorous performances, awards, music and festivity.
The classic restored theater welcomed 200 people from the Armenian and American theater and film communities, with Horizon Television and the Hollyscoop.com hosts Diana Magpapian, Nora Gasparian, and Ani Esmailian manning the red carpet. Former Miss Hollywood and ReelzChannel Correspondent Jill Simonian emceed the Gala with energy and charm.
Celebrities included Alek Keshishian, film director; Jose Rivera, Oscar nominated screenwriter; Anita Vogel, FOX News Reporter; Karen Kondazian, Ovation award-winning actor; Simon Levy, playwright and Fountain Theatre Artistic Director; producer Anahid Nazarian; Adriana Sevan, actor/playwright; Anoush NeVart, film and television actor; Glen Farr, film editor, directors Michael Arabian and Martin Bedoian and comedian Ara Basil.
The Gala program included an encore excerpt reading of Berge Zeytuntsyan’s “Born and Died,” performed by brothers Gregory and Lawrence Zarian (“The Fashion Guy” who appears on KTLA-TV). The Zarian brothers captivated the audience with their interpretation of an Actor and Director competing onstage. Afterwards, ADAA Founder Bianca Bagatourian, who directed “Born and Died,” encouraged everyone’s support;. ”So that we can continue bringing the Armenian voice to the world stage.”
An excerpt of Yehuda Hyman’s play, “I Ask You, Ladies and Gentlemen,” was then performed by Ludwig Manukian, based on the novel and life of Armenian author Leon Surmelian and directed by Fountain Theatre Artistic Director Simon Levy. Manukian’s performance was spellbinding, according to many in the audience. ADAA is producing the play Off-Broadway in the coming year.
At the Gala, the inaugural $10,000 Paul prize was awarded to winner, Richard Kalinoski for his play, “A Crooked Man.” The other finalists were Jose Rivera’s “Three Apples fell from Heaven” and Bill Hoversten’s “Mamigon’s War.” The honorary jury which evaluated the finalists were Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian, American Zoetrope producer Anahid Nazarian, award-winning director/playwright of the Fountain Theatre Simon Levy and Emmy-winning actor/writer/director Michael Goorjian. Actor Karen Kondazian — whose father Varnum Paul established the award — and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian presented the prize to Kalinoski. The Paul award is granted biennially to the best screenplay based on an Armenian theme.
Also awarded during the evening was ADAA’s first Armenian Star Award, presented by Fox News Reporter Anita Vogel to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Deputy director, Lisa Kalustian, was on hand to receive the Star Award and to read a letter of acceptance from the Governor who was thrilled to be honored by ADAA and applauded the organization for its work in the California arts community. Ms. Vogel expressed the sentimen’s of the Armenian artistic community when she stated that the passing of the resolution “Inspires and encourages us to tell our stories and lets us know that they will be heard.”
After the awards presentations, folk/rock singer-songwriter Gor Mkhitarian performed a couple of selections for the eager audience.
The ADAA Celebrity Gala Event Committee was Zoe Kevork, Lisa Kirazian, Kristin Lazarian, Debbie Ohanian, Anahid Shahrik and Loraine Shields and the impressive dinner was provided by Carousel Restaurant and Anoush Catering. The gourmet desserts were created by Jovina of Panos Pastry.
“An inspiring evening,” said one patron, apparently echoing the sentimen’s of many. Funds from the gala will support ADAA’s productions and programs intended to project the Armenian voice on stage and screen around the world. For more information on ADAA, visit www.armeniandrama.org.