An American Dramaturg in Armenia

Reflections on a 5-month sojourn as a Fulbright Scholar to the Yerevan Institute for Cinematography and Theatre

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artistic director of Active Cultures, the Vernacular Theatre of Maryland

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Culture vs. Geography

In researching Armenian theatre, the split between geographic Armenia and cultural Armenia becomes increasingly clear. Armenian theatre historically flourished in the Armenian cultural centers of Constantinople, Tiflis and Baku--cities once encompassed by ancient Armenia.
However, Ancient Armenia ceased to exist over a thousand years ago and, lacking a georgraphic and political home of its own, Armenian culture prospered within other cultures. The Golden Age of Armenian Theatre took place in widespread Eurasian cities.

Today, Armenia exists not just as a people and a culture, but as a geopolitical entity, a country in its own right. 21st century Armenia was formed and its boundaries set by the Soviets early in the history of the USSR. Thus, politics and colonization have shifted the center of Armenian culture from cosmopolitan centers in Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan to the former silk road market town of Yerevan.

Although the USSR no longer exists and the Russians have withdrawn from Armenian, its legacy remains. In structure, the Yerevan theatre scene is more Russian than Armenian. But how does that effect content? How distinct is the art in Armenia from that created in other former Soviet republics? What indeed makes Armenian theatre specifically Armenian?


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