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

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Opening night at the monodrama festival

The season of performing arts festivals has begun in Yerevan.

Last night I was invited to be a guest at the opening night of the ArmMono Shakespeare International One Man Show Festival ( ) Within weeks this festival will be followed by an international dance festival and HighFest ( ). The density of festivals at this time of year is, I believe, due to the glorious weather here in Yerevan. Even an un-airconditioned theatre is comfortable in the Autumn.

The opening night performance turned out to be not a solo performance at all but rather a performance by a company of three Armenian actors (two men and a woman). It qualified as a monodrama (I guess) because only one of actors was onstage at a time. The play, which was a meditation on Othello, was called The Handkerchief and, indeed, featured a multitude of handkerchiefs which ended up littering the stage. One large, silken handkerchief served as a backdrop.

I understood only a word here and there but was very taken with the performance and the theatre. The performance was at the Theatre for Young Spectators at 3 Moskoyan Street. The theatre accommodates several hundred audience members but felt quite intimate. It is a fan-shaped, proscenium-style theatre with a very high ceiling and stone walls. The seats are upholstered in velvet and very sharply raked so the sight lines and acoustics are excellent.

The intimacy of the space was increased by the size of the crowd, which was standing room only. In addition, there were three or four television crews in the audience. It was quite the event.

At the beginning of the performance, the producer of the Festival introduced all the performers. There are solo performers in the festival from Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Poland, the USA, Iran and Russia. But what most intrigued me was the presence of a performer from Turkmenistan. Who would have thought that in Armenia you could see an actor from Turkmenistan performing in a solo show about Shakespeare?


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