An American Dramaturg in Armenia

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

My Photo

artistic director of Active Cultures, the Vernacular Theatre of Maryland

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Yerevan State Circus

Photos: the outside of the circus building and one of the many hand painted posters used to advertise the show.

Yerevan, like many cities in the former Soviet Union, has a permanent, year-round circus housed in a building dedicated to circus performances. The state has operated the circus from its beginnings but recently, a decision was made to privatize the Yerevan State Circus. Competing bids were received from the circus staff and an outside investor. I don't know which bid won.
The circus has struggle financially for years and the building, constructed in 1961, is in desperate need of a major renovation. But, if the performance I recently attended was any indication, there is a ready and willing audience for the circus (and for any performance aimed at children).
However, like many state-run performing arts institutions, the circus has a bloated staff and an underutilized facility. Without a substantial government subsidy, it will have to rethink its institutional mission and expand its offerings in order to survive.
I hope the circus doesn't just survive but thrives because there is something wonderful about a town with its own circus. The circus doesn't come to town. It is part of the town.

Chinese Circus in Yerevan

Photos: Wildly enthusiastic school children wait for the circus to begin. In the second picture, an aeralist act involvinv bungee cords.

On Friday. October 21st, 2005, at 5 pm, I went to see a Chinese Circus perform with the Yerevan Circus at the Yerevan State Circus Building.

The Chinese Circus consisted of a troupe of about 12 very young and charming acrobats. I have seen many Chinese circus troupes but this is the first one that I have seen with a comic slant. Many of the acts were set within humorous story lines. In one, a contortionist act, a boy chased a girl with firecrackers and then they both got stuck in a giant firecracker in a variety of uncomfortable and unbelievable poses. In another, a young boy tried to join in the routine of a group of martial arts-esque tumblers and became the butt of their antics.

The acrobatic acts of the Chinese circus were supplemented by animal acts (dancing bear, trick ponies, etc.) from the Yerevan Circus.

The large and enthusiastic audience was made up primarily of school groups and young families with a healthy sprinkling of grandparents with grandchildren. The kids around me definitely enjoyed the performance. They also enjoyed the cotton candy, popcorn and fake noses they bought from vendors outside the building. It was one of the best performances for children I have seen in a long time and was just the right length.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Link to Yerevan Cultural Events Webpage

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Some Beguiling Performers at the Yerevan Zoo

This bear was very interested in my camera. I think she thought it was something especially tasty to eat.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Likidon, an NGO, that uses theater for childhood development

Here is a link to an article in ArmeniaNow about a very interesting NGO in Gyumri that uses puppet theatre techniques for child development purposes.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Performing Arts Network Conference

On Tuesday, October 1, 2005, I attended an international conference at Yerevan State Film and Theatre Institute. The purpose of the conference was to establish a South Caucusus - Central Asian Performing Arts Network (SCCAPAN).

The Network seeks to reestablish ties between performing arts communities in the Caucusus and Central Asia which were severed when the Soviet Union broke up. The Network will encourage communication, cooperation and collaboration between performing arts groups in each of the countries it represents.

In the first photo, VERONIKA NASALSKAYA from Art & Shock Experimental Theatre in Almaty, Kazakhstan, discusses the work of the Network. Other participants were NABI ABDURAKHMANOV from Uzbekistan, MARINA DAVYDOVA of the International Theatre Festival NET in Russia, and CONSTANTIN CHIRIAC of SIBIU InternationalTheatre Festial in Romania. The conference was chaired by ARTUR CHUKASYAN, president of HIGHFEST in Armenia.

Mihr Plastic Dance Theatre

The square served as a great venue for this performance. It is in the center of the city and can accomodate a large crowd.

The columns at the back of the picture are the front of the Moscovskii Movie Theatre.

Mihr Plastic Dance Theatre at HighFest

October 1, 2005 performance of Roots by the Mihr Plastic Dance Theatre of Armenia. The performance was in Charles Aznavour Square.

Roots is a dance theatre piece about the ancient gods of Armenia and the hieroglyphs they left behind when they vanished.