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

Friday, December 02, 2005

Reuben Gevorgyants' Gala Birthday

In the last few months, I have been to many theatre events here in Yerevan but on Wednesday I went to my first film-related event. Reluctantly, I must admit that film people in Yerevan are way cooler than theatre people. The standard theatre crowd is, in general, stunningly conservative in dress. The men, their hair tightly cropped, wear suits or dress in black from head to toe. Almost universally, the women are impecably groomed, have long, beautiful hair, and totter around on high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes.

In contrast, the film world is full of color and variety. The women wear skirts of many patterns and lengths, boots and shoes of every desciption, and sport imaginative hairstyles in a variety of colors. The men have long hair, short hair, are clean shaven or bearded and, generally, seem oblivious to the world of black clothing.

And where do the film people hang out? In this instance, they were at a gala celebration of film director Ruben Gevorgyants' birthday. The event was held at the Cinema House, a large film theatre which Gevorgyants has run for the last 16 years. I was invited because my son took part in a special recitation by school children in honor of Mr. Gevorgyants.

The party was a cross between a roast and a variety show, with singers, musicians, actors and comedians performing in honor of the birthday boy. Even Sos Sargsian, the actor/director/painter/nationalist/political activist who heads the institute where I teach, was there.

There were many amusing tidbits scattered throughout the evening, such as a very silly skit involving a quilt and disappearing and reappearing characters in narodnii costumes, or the all-Armenian impression of George W. Bush, and expecially the presentation of a marionette portrait of Gevorgyants. But my favorite thing was a documentary of Gevorgyants with his film students in which they travelled to the ancient temple of Garni and picked up trash.

After the performances, there was an amazing buffet in lobby--caviar, cheeses, dried fruits, a magnificent multi-tiered cake and, of course, Armenian wine. The lobby was a who's who in the Armenian performing arts world.


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