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  • Theater, WI
    March 3 2013

    "Beast on the Moon" is can't-miss theater

    Each of us is shaped by our history, for good or ill, with joy or
    sorrow, with distortion or precision of memory.

    And that shaping by history is at the heart of the powerful, exquisite
    and gripping production of "Beast on the Moon"' that opened Friday
    night at In Tandem Theatre's 10th street playhouse.

    The historical event driving this play by Richard Kalinoski is the
    slaughter of nearly one and a half million Armenians by the Turks of
    the Ottoman Empire, a slaughter that began in 1915. It is often
    referred to as the "forgotten genocide."

    The story is of Aram, a refugee from Armenia who settled in Milwaukee
    and Zeta, who as a 15-year-old travels from an orphanage to become the
    wife of Aram. She is greeted in America by a rigid grown man who gives
    her an "American mirror" as a welcoming gift, which prompts her first
    steps at a penetrating self-examination.

    The 12-year slice of their lives is like an intricate dance, taking
    turns who leads and who follows, learning new steps, trying different
    rhythms and dedicating each other to intensive practice.

    Both Aram and Zeta have been shaped by the horrors of the genocide,
    having survived and witnessed unspeakable family slaughter. Both of
    them deal with it by closing off a part of their lives and trying to
    create a substitute for the family they have lost.

    The arc of this story is far too precious to be spoiled by a review,
    but the journey that director Mary MacDonald Kerr takes us on is so
    emotional that at the end, I felt a shiver in my spine as the tears
    gathered on my cheek. Crying at the end of a play is a rare event in
    my life.

    This is an almost perfect production. With so much emotion running
    wild, Kerr realized that it was important to give an audience time to
    breathe and to shake your head at the drama unfolding before us. She
    is one of the finest actors this city has ever seen and her acting
    sensibilities are clear in this turn as director.

    There are moments in this play where the silence between Aram and Zeta
    stretches to almost unholy lengths. You want to stand up and shout:
    "Talk to each other, for Pete's sake." But it's not the talking that
    moves this play. It's the listening and the three actors on stage
    provide a clear lesson on how important it is to listen to the other
    person. Kerr has given them space to just "be," a task a lesser
    director may not have been able to perform, much less recognize.

    Robert Spencer plays both an old man who is the narrator and a young
    Italian orphan who finds his way into the lives of Aram and Zeta. It
    is eloquent testimony to his skills that we believe both roles.

    Michael Cotey plays Aram and Grace DeWolff plays Zeta and their
    chemistry onstage is almost miraculous.

    Cotey, whose wife Eleanor designed stunningly evocative costumes, is
    proving with every turn on stages in this town that he is a true force
    to watch. He has a wide range of emotion. When he smoulders over
    Zeta's insolence and growth into a woman, you can almost see the smoke
    coming out of his ears. When he grows tired of her and lets his beast
    out, you find yourself sitting back in your chair, hoping to stay out
    of his way.

    DeWolff was, in no uncertain terms, spectacular. She had the
    vulnerability and humor of a 15-year-old orphan and the worldly
    certainty of a childless woman in search of a present to make her
    husband whole. Her passion for honor and truth is boundless and she
    can make you laugh and shudder all in a moment's time.

    It is impossible not to notice the similarities between Kerr and
    DeWolff, who is eerily reminiscent of a young Kerr, who has delighted
    audiences in Milwaukee for almost two decades.

    In Tandem opened its 15th season this year with a tension-filled
    production of 'The Nightmare Room," one of the most powerful plays of
    the year. This play ranks right up with that one and should not be
    Hayastan or Bust.

  • #2
    Re: Theater


    October 4, 2015

    By Sinj Karan

    Montreal's Teesri Duniya Theatre is presenting its offering directed by
    Liz Valdez and written by playwright Rahul Varma. The play is called
    State of Denial and it explores a very painful and often forgotten
    part of the history in the 20th century. An earlier workshop production
    of the piece was performed in 2012.

    The play links the Turkish-denied Armenian genocide of 1915 with the
    1995 genocide in Rwanda, connecting them through the Canadian diaspora
    experience. When Odette, a Rwandan-born Canadian filmmaker, travels
    to Turkey to investigate stories of genocide and hidden identity,
    she interviews Sahana, an elderly and respected Muslim woman who has
    devoted her life to assisting Armenian survivors. On her deathbed,
    Sahana confesses a chilling secret that challenges a long-standing
    state of denial that Odette promises to make public at any personal

    In the words of the Director Liz Valdez, "This is incredibly important
    at a time when we all seem to be so aware and informed, and yet here
    are these moments in history that most people don't know anything
    about. Moments that actually lead to other moments in history. The
    truth that I had no idea of the similarities between what happened in
    Turkey in 1915-18 and the holocaust. How? Why? How did we not see it
    happening again when Hitler came to power? And since then, happening
    over and over in different horrific ways and for different reasons."

    Valdez also spoke about her vision for the play. "My concept and
    vision of the play is that the relationship between the women is the
    most important one in the storytelling, from their perspective and
    from their experience," Valdez says. "Neither is right, nor wrong,
    they are who they are and their experiences did not come from their
    own choices but from the choices that men took for them in times of
    war/ dispute/ horror. Uncovering the layers of what women do to keep
    going, to keep surviving, to keep loving and healing - to live with
    the truth we need and the truth that actually is."

    Sinj Karan was able to sit down and talk to the renowned playwright
    Rahul Varma (founder of Teesri Duniya Theatre) and speak about
    the play.

    Sinj Karan (SK): With a historical play and production what kind of
    research goes into writing such a work?

    Rahul Varma (RV): History has been written by victors who have the
    power to exclude what they do not wish the public to know. So learning
    about history is important, but history constitutes the background
    - the research that goes on is about peoples' lives. Learning what
    history did to people tells us more about history.

    SK: Are there elements of historical authenticity that are necessary
    for a piece like this? Can you please elaborate how as an artist you
    navigate that vis-a-vis your own vision for the play/production?

    RV: I prefer to imagine a play rather than just use historical
    authenticity. Imagination takes us beyond facts and has a higher
    possibility of acceptance. The dramatic craft of imagination allows
    audiences to be affected and be changed by what they see and hear.

    Truth is multifold and historical authenticity sacrifices the aesthetic
    and prevents complexity, nuances and multiple points of entry for a
    wider discussion.

    SK: Given the continued human violence in the 21st century, what
    does this play/production speak to in a contemporary context? Is
    it merely revising a historical event or does it mean more in the
    present context?

    RV: If we had learned from the Armenian genocide, we may have prevented
    the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and many other genocides.

    Today, the role of an artist is not to revisit history but to allow
    the public to learn important lessons from it, so horrible acts
    of history are not repeated. State of Denial is presented to draw
    attention to, and the elevation of, human misery and to create a
    world of diminished violence.

    SK: Can you speak to the Life Stories project and how it contributed
    to the conceptualization and writing of this work?

    RV: Montreal Life Stories was an important research project about
    people displaced by genocide, violence, denial of human rights and
    other crimes. Teesri Duniya Theatre was part of the Life Stories
    project. The idea of the play came about from my being part of the

    Rahul Varma, awarded playwright and Artistic Director of Teesri
    Duniya Theatre, tells stories that would otherwise never be told. The
    fictional State of Denial is derived from multiple true stories
    from the research project, Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by
    War, Genocide and other Human Rights Violations housed at Concordia
    University. Varma affirms, "The stories of elsewhere are Canadian
    stories affecting all citizens. They go beyond biography and facts,
    revealing truth while instigating further inquiry. My aim is to
    address global issues locally."

    State of Denial opens at the Segal Centre (5170 Côte Ste Catherine)
    and runs from Thursday, October 8 to Sunday, October 25, 2015. See
    HERE for tickets and times.

    Montreal rampage
    Upcoming production at the Segal focuses on the Armenian Genocide. Interview with Rahul Varma about putting this tragedy into a play here.

    Hayastan or Bust.


    • #3

      ‘Gariné xxxxtail’ Leaves Yerevan Audiences Shaken, Stirred

      Armenia, Arts | July 20, 2017 1:01 pm

      Anouche Martirossian (Tigran Arakelyan photo)

      Arsen Gevorgyan, Silva Petrossian and Vahe Matteos Hakhverdian (Tigran Arakelyan photo)

      By Lilit Deryan
      YEREVAN — The showcase titled “Gariné xxxxtail …” was a triumph. Certainly, the lasting and ecstatic standing ovation was one of the longest and loudest we have witnessed in a long time at the National Opera House of Armenia on June 25.
      The evening comprised two parts, offered quartets and sextets from operas by Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Tchouhadjian, performed by singers from the opera’s Young Singers’ program.
      Three well-known and excellent opera soloists, tenors Hovhannes Ayvazyan and Liparit Avetisyan and soprano Irina Zakyan joined the young singers, some of whom had never appeared on this stage before; actually, some had never appeared on any opera stage before, in front of a full orchestra.
      Most memorable moments were Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” sextet dynamically and hilariously staged by the evening’s director Gerald Papasian, and Olympia’s aria and a Sextet from Dikran Tchouhadjian’s opera “Arsace Secondo” (Arshak II) which were world premieres in their original Italian and uncut form since the opera’s creation in 1868.
      After an intermission, Papasian presented an “aperitif,” as he called it, of Tchouhadjian’s opera buffa “Gariné’s” first act, with some of the young singers, the opera’s chorus and orchestra.
      This was yet another “premiere” as far as orchestration was concerned since the opera was performed for the first time since Tchouhadjian’s lifetime with the composer’s original instrumentation recently found in Paris by the Dikran Tchouhadjian International Institute. Some never heard before melodies were also revealed on this occasion.
      The aim of this evening was to generate enough interest and funds to produce the entire opera-buffa later next season.
      Yet this “demo production” was not really what one would call a semi-staged performance as Papasian, playing the master of ceremonies, had announced. Viktoria Riedo’s candy store approach of sets, contemporary costumes, (casual outfits, torn jeans, shorts) lights and video work were a non-stop visual delight.
      As for the staging, it certainly showed Papasian’s ability to move the singers, especially the chorus, traditionally static, rather like backup singers, who were unrecognizable during the show, displaying acrobatic moves and dances never before seen on the Yerevan opera stage. His buoyant and most humorous direction was a breath of fresh air, fully appreciated by an elated and ecstatic audience.
      Our opera theater seems to be heading for a very prominent change, bringing it closer to European and international approaches where opera means theatre and a stage director is the main person to lead it in that direction. Kudos to Gerald Papasian!
      As master of ceremonies, Papasian ended the first act in a take-off of TV soap opera: “What will be the fate of the heroes of the play? You shall soon find out when we present the full production. Join us next season!”
      Minister of Culture Armen Amiriyan seemed to be having tremendous fun along with the audience. He congratulated all involved artists backstage, especially appreciating the modern approach and youthful freshness of the evening, calling it a triumph and hoping to see the entire thing soon.
      As the showcase ended with a cliffhanger, a delighted little 6-year-old girl sitting right in front of me turned to her mother and said: “Mama, mama, I want to see how it all ends!”
      Special thanks go to artistic and acting director Constantine Orbelian without whose help and vision none of this would have ever happened.

      “GARINÉ xxxxtail …” evening’s Stage director Gerald Papasian, conductor Haroutyoun Arzoumanyan, Music director Levon Javadyan, Sets/costumes/lights/video designer Viktoria Riedo, Choreographer Maria Divanian, Chorus master Radik Melikian.
      PART ONE singers: Hovhannes Ayvazyan, Liparit Avetisyan, Irina Zakyan, Marianna Martirosyan, Sargis Bajbeouk-Melikian, Sofia Tumanyan, Hasmik Asatryan, Lusine Makaryan, Kim Sargsyan, Hayk Tongouryan, Silva Petrosyan, Vahe Matteos Hakhverdian, Anouche Martirossian, Vardan Sahakyan, Gosh Sargsian, Sergey Stepanyan.
      GARINÉ singers : Sargis Bajbeouk-Melikian, Silva Petrosyan, Vahe Matteos Hakhverdian, Arsen Gevorgyan, Anouche Martirossian, Nune Grigoryan.

      Hayastan or Bust.