BY GAREN YEGPAIRIAN
Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Anahid Aramouni Keshishian’s “Geenuh” (The Woman) in which she and Lilit Arakelyan play the parts of older and younger versions of the same woman.
Their discussion hits key aspects of life – aspirations, family, disappointments, love, etc. Moving at times, with occasional wry humor (that seemed to go largely unrecognized even though I got some good chuckles out of it), the play comes across as very authentic. After the play, I overheard a woman telling Anahid that she had just presented “all our lives” – which I took to mean Armenian women. That strikes me as high praise.
This brings me to the one criticism I have of the play. Not one of the names of people in the young/old woman’s life was Armenian. When I confronted Anahid with this criticism, she explained it was intentional because she wanted the play to be universal. Perhaps, then it should have been written and performed in Esperanto, the international language. This is a sore spot for me. The play was in Armenian, which is just as valid a language to address universal themes as any other language, so sacrificing Armenian names and encouraging (however inadvertently) the ongoing obscene level of non-Armenian names used by Armenian parents is very inappropriate. How the use of Armenian names in an Armenian play performed in Armenian would detract from the (very real) universality of the play is beyond me. Also, some of the themes struck me as being more Armenian-specific, in the context of societal development relative to current Euro-American society. Interestingly, there wasn’t even the slightest reference to the Genocide.
Despite this, I really liked the play, and that’s not only because of how much I enjoy Armenian theatre. It was believable and serious. The theatre was completely full as far as I could tell. Why is this relevant? Because an overwhelming proportion of Armenian theatrical productions tend to be comedies. The accepted wisdom is that our community largely avoids serious plays. That’s sad. It leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein the paucity of non-comedic productions leads to people feeling comfortable with theatre only when they can go to laugh. And, just to be clear, I am not advocating that every play be about some grave, Genocide-like, topic.
I recommend you go see the play if you live in the LA area or will be visiting on March 26 & 27 or April 2 & 3. It was a nice “first,” going to an Armenian play in Burbank where I live! The last such play was some 26-27 years ago, Vahe Berberian’s “200”, before I moved to Burbank. You can get tickets online here: http://www.itsmyseat.com/events/535867.html.
This play is a good segue into April, when things tend to get serious. It’s a good segue because cultural and other activities are effective ways to get our concerns and message out to our non-Armenian neighbors and involve people with different interests and passions. Lectures are fine, but plays and poetry, hikes and bike rides, dance and music all grab more people’s attention.
By way of music, I am intrigued by the April 16 Hrant Dink Oratorio, dedicated to his legacy. It seems like a good combination – music for the best known post-Genocide victim of Turkish state anti-Armenian violence. Let’s all check it out by getting tickets.